Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Brain development and anger

Dr Dave,
I am a grandfather of an 8 year old grandson
Much of his anger issues have been reflected in the your article online. 
Perhaps you can clarify a description relating to the diagnostic part of the article 
It refers to a “lag or deficit in their limbic system”
Does that mean with a development lag, a child may outgrow this issue with maturity ?
Alternatively, does having a deficit in his limbic system mean lifelong issues treated by behavioural &/or medication?
And can a diagnosis be made now if it is a “lag” or “deficit in the limbic system”?
Your response is much appreciated!

You ask some great questions.  Scientists think there is a problem with the communication between different areas of the brain in people with anger overload.  Recent theories suggest connectivity issues between the amygdala, in the limbic part of the brain, and the prefrontal cortex, the outer area of the brain.  The prefrontal cortex helps with self control. 

To my knowledge there are no studies of anger overload looking at brain development from childhood to adulthood.  We think many children improve with age and with therapy, but why do some adults still have problems with self control while others do not?  Brain studies of adults only (not children) suggest problems with neurotransmitter communication between the brain centers that I noted above, the amygdala and prefrontal cortex.   Another recent study looked at miscommunication between the prefrontal cortex and the language center of the brain.

What would be real interesting would be to do an MRI study of the brain of children with anger issues before and post treatment to see what changes in the brain for children who improve. We do know many children improve and that strategies like those described in my parents' manual can help.

Best, David Gottlieb,Ph.D.