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Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2009 Mar;33(3):475-91. doi: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2008.12.003. Epub 2008 Dec 25.

Pain-related effects of trait anger expression: neural substrates and the role of endogenous opioid mechanisms.

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Department of Anesthesiology, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, 701 Medical Arts Building, 1211 21st Avenue South, Nashville, TN 37212, USA.


Literature is reviewed indicating that greater tendency to manage anger via direct verbal or physical expression (trait anger-out) is associated with increased acute and chronic pain responsiveness. Neuroimaging data are overviewed supporting overlapping neural circuits underlying regulation of both pain and anger, consisting of brain regions including the rostral anterior cingulate cortex, orbitofrontal cortex, anterior insula, amygdala, and periaqueductal gray. These circuits provide a potential neural basis for observed positive associations between anger-out and pain responsiveness. The role of endogenous opioids in modulating activity in these interlinked brain regions is explored, and implications for understanding pain-related effects of anger-out are described. An opioid dysfunction hypothesis is presented in which inadequate endogenous opioid inhibitory activity in these brain regions contributes to links between trait anger-out and pain. A series of studies is presented that supports the opioid dysfunction hypothesis, further suggesting that gender and genetic factors may moderate these effects. Finally, possible implications of interactions between trait anger-out and state behavioral anger expression on endogenous opioid analgesic activity are described.

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