The goal of this paper is to consider anger from a cognitive neuroscience perspective. Five main claims are made: first, reactive aggression is the ultimate behavioral expression of anger and thus we can begin to understand anger by understanding reactive aggression. Second, neural systems implicated in reactive aggression (amygdala, hypothalamus, and periaqueductal gray; the basic threat system) are critically implicated in anger. Factors such as exposure to extreme threat that increase the responsiveness of these systems, should be (and are in the context of posttraumatic stress disorder), associated with increased anger. Third, regions of frontal cortex implicated in regulating the basic threat system, when dysfunctional (e.g., in the context of lesions) should be associated with increased anger. Fourth, frustration occurs when an individual continues to do an action in the expectation of a reward but does not actually receive that reward, and is associated with anger. Individuals who show impairment in the ability to alter behavioral responding when actions no longer receive their expected rewards should be (and are in the context of psychopathy) associated with increased anger. Fifth, someone not doing what another person wants them to do (particularly if this thwarts the person's goal) is frustrating and consequently anger inducing. The response to such a frustrating social event relies on the neural architecture implicated in changing behavioral responses in nonsocial frustrating situations. WIREs Cogn Sci 2012, 3:65–74. doi: 10.1002/wcs.154
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This article is a U.S. Government work, and as such, is in the public domain in the United States of America.