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
Newly added to our resources links is the AJ Novick Group, co-founders of the Century Anger Management model of intervention and providers of anger management classes, executive coaching, professional certification and a wide range of home study anger management classes and online anger management classes. Check them out at the links below or in our resources section.
Links: AJ Novick Group, Anger Class Online, Century Anger Management
Sleep deprivation causes the emotional centers tied to the amygdala to become quite a bit more active.
“It’s almost as though, without sleep, the brain had reverted back to more primitive patterns of activity, in that it was unable to put emotional experiences into context and produce controlled, appropriate responses,” said Matthew Walker, director of UC Berkeley’s Sleep and Neuroimaging Laboratory and senior author of the study, which is to be published in the journal Current Biology.
This lack of sleep was found to increase amygdala emotional response by over 60%. It also caused the brain to first connect to the ocus coeruleus, the oldest part of the brain which releases noradrenalin to ward off imminent threats to survival, rather than to the prefrontal cortex.
This has a certain logic. A tired animal needs to react quickly to survive. But, as humans, we need to be able to cognitively assess all situations and this neurological predisposition leads to increased volatility in emotional responses such as anger. Worse, it increases the likelihood of making inappropriate responses to situations – doing things that we would normally not do in a rested state.
Bottom line – make sure that a coachee is rested before having a heart-to-heart. And when that is not possible, be prepared to factor in the extra emotional response.
Conventional wisdom has held that putting our feelings into words helps us feel better. A recent study at UCLA’s Ahmanson-Lovelace Brain Mapping Center may indicate part of the reason why. Verbalizing feelings was shown to activate a portion of the prefrontal cortex (right ventrolateral to be precise), bringing about a subsequent reduction in response from the amygdala, the brain’s alarm system.
Similar to applying the brakes to a car, verbalizing our negative feelings may make them feel less intense. The benefit – it gives us a bit more control over the semi-chaos that often characterize our emotional responses. In the words of Ted, thought trumps emotion in this case.
Link: Putting feelings into words produces therapeutic effects in the brain
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