Road Rage, Where Does it Come From?
Activity levels in specific systems in the brain are correlated with certain behaviors. When stress and frustration are affecting these brain systems, you can develop mood and behavior problems.
The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) defines road rage as aggressive or violent behaviors stemming from a driver’s uncontrolled anger at the actions of another motorist. However, did you know that there is a place in your brain where the anger associated with road rage comes from?
This area in your brain is located deep in the middle of your frontal lobes. Meet the Anterior Cingulate Gyrus, better known as the ACG.
Anterior Cingulate Gyrus (ACG)
The ACG and surrounding areas of the frontal lobes are involved in shifting your attention from one thing to another. When the ACG is working effectively you’re more able to roll with the circumstances of the day. However, if this part of the brain works too hard, often due to low serotonin levels in the brain, you have a tendency to get locked into negative thoughts or behaviors.
Road Rage and Your ACG
Something happens to many drivers when they get behind the wheel of a car; a territorial animal comes growling to the surface. When road rage begins, you don’t just express frustration, call the person a bad name, and continue with your drive.
Instead, you let the situation intensify within. You become consumed with road rage – swearing, gesturing, chasing, or harassing the other driver. This is due to trouble with shifting attention.
Some examples of attention shifting issues in the ACG brain include:
- Getting stuck on ineffective thoughts and behavior patterns
- Oppositional Behavior
- Holding onto hurts from the past
- Excessive worrying
A Case Study in Road Rage
Be careful when you notice yourself or another driver becoming furious with road rage. It can quickly turn into a downward spiral. At Amen Clinics, we treated a patient struggling with road rage:
A 37-year-old male attorney chased other drivers who cut him off, and on two occasions, he got out of his car and bashed in their windows with a baseball bat. After the second incident, he came to Amen Clinics. He said, “If I don’t get help for this, I’m sure to end up in jail.”
His SPECT brain imaging scan revealed two abnormal findings:
- Increased activity in the ACG brain causing him to get locked into negative thoughts.
- Left temporal lobe hyperactivity which correlated with his inability to control his frustration.
It is important to remember that your day-to-day thoughts and behaviors also have a powerful effect on your brain chemistry. Optimizing the ACG involves training the brain to become more flexible, by seeing options and new ideas in a healthier way.
Even incorporating smaller health changes daily such as exercising and eating a balanced diet can help.
Amen Clinics has spent the last 25 years helping people improve their brain health, receive specialized treatments and remove the stigma surrounding mental health. If you or a loved one needs professional help, reach out to Amen Clinics today online or call (888) 288-9834.