Is Anger Related to Brain Structure?

A very small and experimental study among adolescents in Australia suggests that the size of the amygdala plays a part in the expression of anger – at least among teenagers (which suggests that a tired teenager is even worse.)  The authors of the study, a joint research project conducted by the University of Melbourne, Australia and the Oregon Research Institute in the United States, state that  their findings suggest that mood behaviour and the ability to control it during family interactions is related to brain structure.  In essence, they found a positive relationship between the duration of aggression and the size of the left and right amygdala, though it was only significant on the left-hand side.

So what does this mean?  Does it excuse angry outbursts followed by rationales, such as, “I can’t help how I’m wired?”  Hardly.  But it might offer an additional physiological reason for the variability in individuals and their “anger quotients.”  And if that’s the case, then it becomes one more bit of understanding about the brain and how it functions that can help coaches craft better strategies and tools for anger management.

Links:  Teen Anger and Brain Size; An Abstract of the Original Study ; Children and other Impulse Behaviors

2 thoughts on “Is Anger Related to Brain Structure?”

  1. What does this mean? I would say, rather than a built in excuse for bad behavior, this represents pretty good empirical evidence for how much we are able to “shape” our brains by choice. Neuroplasticity , neurogenesis and changes in blood flow in response to certain thoughts or feelings is a neuroanatomical reality. Interconnecting neurons will “sprout” reinforcing a given bad behavior. We do this by choice…without “self-awareness” however, choice becomes reflexive and primarily sub-conscious. Enlightenment anyone?

  2. Precise and nicely said. The idea of particular interest, to me at least, is the exploration of choice in light of the growing corpus of empirical evidence on physiological brain structure and process. Choice without self-awareness is a crucial aspect and worth discussion. I make conscious choices and inevitably shape my brain by such choice. I make unconscious choices and do the same. Of interest, of course, from a mentoring and coaching perspective is the learning to make good conscious choices that will give whatever results we’re desiring. But also, how can we shape our immediate environments and stimuli in such a way as to guide reflexive response into desired rather than counterproductive directions? That is one aspect of choice without self-awareness that is of immense interest.

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