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Deconstructing Anger in the Human Brain

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Social Behavior from Rodents to Humans

Part of the book series: Current Topics in Behavioral Neurosciences ((CTBN,volume 30))


Anger may be caused by a wide variety of triggers, and though it has negative consequences on health and well-being, it is also crucial in motivating to take action and approach rather than avoid a confrontation. While anger is considered a survival response inherent in all living creatures, humans are endowed with the mental flexibility that enables them to control and regulate their anger, and adapt it to socially accepted norms. Indeed, a profound interpersonal nature is apparent in most events which evoke anger among humans. Since anger consists of physiological, cognitive, subjective, and behavioral components, it is a contextualized multidimensional construct that poses theoretical and operational difficulties in defining it as a single psychobiological phenomenon. Although most neuroimaging studies have neglected the multidimensionality of anger and thus resulted in brain activations dispersed across the entire brain, there seems to be several reoccurring neural circuits subserving the subjective experience of human anger. Nevertheless, to capture the large variety in the forms and fashions in which anger is experienced, expressed, and regulated, and thus to better portray the related underlying neural substrates, neurobehavioral investigations of human anger should aim to further embed realistic social interactions within their anger induction paradigms.

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This work was supported by the University of Chicago’s Arete Initiative – A New Science of Virtues Program (39174-07); the U.S. Department of Defense award (W81XWH-11-2-0008); EU FP7 Health Cooperation Programme - BrainTrain Project (602186); the I-CORE Program of the Planning and Budgeting Committee (51/11); and the Levy Edersheim Gitter Institute for Neuroimaging and the Adams Super Center for Brain Studies, Tel Aviv University. The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Correspondence to Gadi Gilam or Talma Hendler .

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Gilam, G., Hendler, T. (2015). Deconstructing Anger in the Human Brain. In: Wöhr, M., Krach, S. (eds) Social Behavior from Rodents to Humans. Current Topics in Behavioral Neurosciences, vol 30. Springer, Cham.

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