The math brain: Scientists find two predictive neurotransmitters

Could today’s math professors and arithmetic geniuses have been born with a biological advantage?

Seeking to explore this possibility, a new study set out to find whether an individual’s math ability was associated with concentrations of two key neurotransmitters involved in learning.

The researchers, led by Roi Cohen Kadosh, professor of cognitive neuroscience, and George Zacharopoulos from the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom, looked into GABA and glutamate levels in the brain to see if these neurotransmitters could predict mathematics ability for the future.

GABA and glutamate are both naturally occurring amino acids that have complementary roles: the former inhibits or reduces the activity of neurons or nerve cells in the brain, while the latter makes them more active. Their levels fluctuate across the lifespan.