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Test Anxiety and Brain Function

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Stephanie Nelson

on 20 April 2013

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Transcript of Test Anxiety and Brain Function

So, what causes
Test Anxiety? Poor Test History Fear of Failure Some anxiety is healthy, it can
motivate us to do better and think
sharper. However, when people base
their self-worth on their test
performance, it can be devastating
and harmful. A history of poor test
taking skills, may lead to the development of negative self-expectation and test anxiety. Test Anxiety and Brain Function Lack of Preparation People who don't study or procrastinate may feel
overwhelmed and experience
anxiety as a result. So, what are
the Symptoms of
Test Anxiety? Behavioral/Cognitive Physical Headache, nausea, diarrhea,
excessive sweating, shortness
of breath, rapid heartbeat,
light-headed, faintness,
panic attack. Difficulty concentrating,
thinking negatively
and comparing yourself
to others Emotional anger, fear,
helplessness and
disappointment So, what happens
in your Brain
during Test Anxiety? During testing, we are engaging
part of the brain called the
Prefrontal Cortex . This
part of the brain is involved in personality,
planning, inhibition of behaviors,
abstract thinking, emotion, &
short-term memory. When a person experiences test anxiety, Dopamine floods the Prefrontal Cortex, impairing the function of this part of the brain. This chemical has been linked to loco motor activity, cognition, emotion, positive reinforcement, food intake, and endocrine regulation. So, then why do some people struggle with Test Anxiety while others do not? Gene Research Recent research has investigated the role that the gene,
catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) may play in test anxiety. There are two kinds of people in this world... 1. Those whose COMT gene builds enzymes that slowly remove dopamine.

2. Those whose COMT gene builds enzymes that rapidly clear dopamine.

We all carry the genes for one or the other, or a combination of the two. Those with Slow
Acting Enzymes So, lets
the two: Those with Fast Acting Enzymes lackadaisical.
The fast-acting enzymes remove too much dopamine, so the overall level is too low, and the prefrontal cortex simply doesn’t work as well. cognitive advantage--superior executive function
they can concentrate better, reason, solve problems, formulate complex thought and better foresee consequences. Computerized puzzles and games, portions of I.Q. tests WARRIORS WORRIERS High Stakes Tests The surge in dopamine brings their functioning to an optimal level.
They perform the best under stress. High Stakes Tests the slow acting enzyme cannot remove the surge of dopamine fast enough.
the prefrontal cortex is flooded and cannot function properly. Computerized puzzles and games, portions of I.Q. tests The Good News: Study Strategies Establish regular study habits
Develop a daily study plan
Use Memory Strategies
Preview the reading before class
Go to class
Review after class
Use Multiple Modes of learning
analytical Testing Strategies Get enough sleep
Arrive early
Do easy parts first
Expect to see questions you don't know
Watch for key words--"Always", "only", "never", "sometimes", "often", "generally"
Read directions thoroughly
Use note cards to study Research has shown that, regardless of your COMT gene makeup, you can improve your reaction to Test Anxiety! But How? Relaxation Techniques improves expression of calming genes
In the prefrontal cortex--raises functioning & suppresses negative emotions, minimizing the activity of the amygdala--the warning bell of the brain. Practice: Diaphragmatic breathing
Patterned breathing
Finger excercises
Body Relaxation--The Magnificent Seven References Anxiety and Depression Association of America. Test Anxiety. Retrieved April 15, 2013, from
Bronson, P. O., & Merryman, A. (2013). Why can some kids handle pressure while others fall
apart? Retrieved April 12, 2013, from http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/10/magazine/why-can-some-kids-handle-pressure-while-others-fall-apart.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0Genetics Home Reference. (2013).
COMT. Retrieved April 15, 2013, from http://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/gene/COMT
Driscoll, R. (2004). Westside test anxiety scale. Retrieved April 11, 2013 from
How to Train Your Brain to Alleviate Anxiety. Retrieved April 15, 2013, from
Missale, C., Nash, S. R., Robinson, S. W., Jaber, M., & Caron, M. G. (1998). Dopamine receptors:
From structure to function. Retrieved April 15, 2013, from http://physrev.physiology.org/content/78/1/189.long#abstract-1 Tartakovsky, M. (2012).
Western Washington University. Test anxiety. Retrieved April 11, 2013 from
http://www.wwu.edu/counseling/test-anxiety.shtml Do I experience
Test Anxiety?
(Westside Test Anxiety Scale) Study Strategies Handout:
http://www.wwu.edu/counseling/docs/Study%20Strategies%20for%20Taming%20Test%20Anxiety.pdf Testing Strategies Handout:
http://www.wwu.edu/counseling/docs/Test%20Strategies.pdf Relaxation Techniques Handout:
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