Campus & Community

Probing inappropriate rage

1 min read

Scientists look into angry brains

As 30 research subjects seethed, scientists measured blood flowing between the thinking and emotional parts of their brains. What would be the difference between people who controlled their anger pretty well, and those who could not handle it in a socially acceptable way? These were the first such brain scans ever done with mental patients while they wrestled with their anger. They were done by researchers at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital. A look into the brains of normal subjects revealed that anger increases blood flow to a reasoning part of their brains, an area over the left eye just behind the forehead, technically called the orbitofrontal cortex. This flow inhibits thoughts of rage. At the same time, blood flow increased activity in the amygdala, an almond-shaped knot of tissue deep in the brain that deals with emotion and vigilance. But in people dealing with both depression and rage, things go a different way. A decrease in blood flow to these areas of the brain reduces both their ability to control impulsive acts and their feelings about the consequences of those acts.