Anger & the BRAIN (Part 4)

pain/anger ME ANGRY? NAH –
it’s all in my head!

PREVIOUS: Anger & the Brain (# 3)

SITES: The 4 theories of Emotions

Brain Chemical Released When Angry


ANGER on the brain
A normal amount of anger is necessary & appropriate to function well in personal relationships & in the outside world.

The brain processes anger as stress, so it prepares us for the eventuality of fight-or-flight by elevating blood pressure, cortisol, serum glucose levels….
A certain amount of arousal is vital for efficient remembering, but when it’s too high, (as when we’re very angry) it seriously diminishes the ability to concentrate EXP: it’s hard to recall details of a really explosive argument.

◆ The orbito-frontal cortex (OFC), the lower part of the prefrontal lobes, integrates sensory information from various other parts of the brain, such as weighing the value of reward-to-action, combining sensory input that turns taste into flavor….

Damage to the OFC can result in:
a. addictive behavior (over-eating, gambling…), so that the immediate thrill of a vice is chosen over the greater rewards of healthy choices & emotional stability.
b. over-reactions in behavior when very angry, because our cognitive understanding & interpretation of sensory experiences are distorted (an ‘innocent’ touch, hearing someone laugh, being accidentally bumped….)

◆ In a Harvard study of anger & the brain, MRIs of normal people showed that anger increases blood flow activity to:
> the amygdala, which deals with emotion & vigilance, and
> the cortex, which can cool the ‘heat’ of responses from the central & primitive parts of our brain, allowing a person’s conscious to decide how to respond, or totally inhibit acting on impulses.

However, severely depressed people may not have the correct balance of brain activity, so are not able to recognize & control their anger, which can lead to violent rages. (Darin Dougherty, Asst. Prof.)
SITEs:Trauma response to Anger” // Brain and Development effected after Child Abuse

Researchers at the Hotchkiss Brain Institute in Calgary, Canada, discovered that one of the effects that anger has on the brain – is that neurons in the hypothalamus stop working properly.
Normally these neurons (cells) receive chemical signals that prompt them to either switch on or off.
Certain neuro-transmitter chemicals produced when we’re angry interfere with these functions, jeopardizing the brain’s ability to slow itself down, by blocking the growth of new neurons & causing the death MY hormone interactionsof existing ones – leading to depression, memory impairment & learning problems.

Happiness Hormones” are mono-amines, the main neuro-transmitters which animate the brain (how neurons transfer an impulse between them across a synaptic space) .

They’re associated with a variety of moods, playing a vital role in feeling, thinking & acting (T.E.A). When they’re up & running correctly, they produce a sense of well-being. These include:
‣ Serotonin, involved in emotion, overall mood, & keeping aggressive social responses in check. When low, it’s harder to control our reactions when we’re angry
‣ Dopamine is released to push us toward something good, or avoid something very bad. It also determines how angry we get when we’re upset

‣ Nor-epinephrin
(nor-adrenaline) prepares the body for ‘fight or flight’’
√ depressed people have Lower levels of this hormone
√ we get a ‘rush’ from combined epinephrine & nor-epinephrine
SITEs: Leadership chemicals (scroll down) / “Meet your Chemicals” (cute slides)

BTW: Normally, when we get angry, frustrated or feel other ‘uncomfortable’ emotions – because of some real or perceived danger – the adrenals quickly release the catecholamines Dopamine + Epinephrine & Nor-epinephrine, combined in a 80%-20% proportion.

They prepare the body for ‘fight or flight’, so we can deal with whatever is causing the anger, but the influx of these chemicals can also lead to acts of aggression in some situations.
In reverse, when they’re depleted or out of balance they cause physical & emotional disturbances, including anger, depression, anxiety, obsessions…

✤ Interestingly, these same chemicals are also generated by fear. It’s one reason why FEAR & ANGER are directly opposite each other on the Plutchik ‘Wheel of Emotions’. (“Identifying Emotions, #1)

FILL-IN form: FEAR Self-Inventory (+ info, charts, growth….)

NEXT: Anger & the Brain (Part 5)

2 thoughts on “Anger & the BRAIN (Part 4)

  1. I like the info on the amygdala (now I know why I freak out when interviewing prospective tenants). I like the info on Mirror Neurons too. I observed years and years of sick thinking and acting (home & romantic relationship) and automatically imitated much of it – and now I’m having a hard time changing it.


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