Opting out of advanced math education alters teen neural development, UK study finds

Oct 27, 2021 | Saskatoon

In a 2021 research article George Zacharopoulos, Francesco Sella, and Roi Cohen Kadosh present data on the effects of taking advanced math classes vs taking a break from math.

"A brain imaging study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found evidence that missing out on math education can alter neural development. Young adults who had chosen not to pursue advanced math had lower levels of the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) within the middle frontal gyrus when compared to students who were continuing their math education. Importantly, these changes were not evident prior to students’ decision to continue math or not."

"We show that within the same society, adolescent students who specifically lack mathematical education exhibited reduced brain inhibition levels in a key brain area involved in reasoning and cognitive learning. Importantly, these brain inhibition levels predicted mathematical attainment ∼19 mo later, suggesting they play a role in neuroplasticity. Our study provides biological understanding of the impact of the lack of mathematical education on the developing brain and the mutual play between biology and education."

Zacharopoulos and his team muse “In addition, one might further consider how the differences in opportunities to access education, as reflected especially during the Covid-19 pandemic, might impact neural and cognitive development.”

Sources: https://www.pnas.org/content/118/24/e2013155118

Photo: https://www.pnas.org/content/118/24/e2013155118/tab-figures-data