Anger Promoting RAGE System of the Brain

Operating in opposition to the anticipatory eagerness of the SEEKING system is an opponent process aroused by irritation and frustration that can instigate anger responses. This RAGE system facilitates defensive actions by inspiring fear in other animals. It also energizes anger responses that facilitate retention of valued resources when animals are irritated, frustrated, or restrained. Enraged attitudes and behavior can be provoked in both humans and other animals by stimulating neural circuits that extend from the medial amygdala to the PAG of the central mesencephalon (see Chapter 10, Panksepp 1998a). Human anger may derive much of its impulsive energy from this brain system. When brain tumors irritate this circuit, unpremeditated pathological aggression may ensue (e.g., Pontius, 2002), while damage or psychosurgery along this system has been observed to promote serenity (Panksepp, 1985). Some of the neurochemistries of this system are highlighted in Table 21.1, providing cogent pharmacological targets for diminishing the "heat of anger." Although no highly effective and specific antianger drugs have yet been created, a detailed analysis of the RAGE system may eventually yield such medications (Chapter 21).

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