Do anger perception and the experience of anger share common neural mechanisms? Coordinate-based meta-analytic evidence of similar and different mechanisms from functional neuroimaging studies

Neuroimage. 2021 Apr 15;230:117777. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2021.117777. Epub 2021 Jan 24.


The neural bases of anger are still a matter of debate. In particular we do not know whether anger perception and anger experience rely on similar or different neural mechanisms. To study this topic, we performed activation-likelihood-estimation meta-analyses of human neuroimaging studies on 61 previous studies on anger perception and experience. Anger perception analysis resulted in significant activation in the amygdala, the right superior temporal gyrus, the right fusiform gyrus and the right IFG, thus revealing the role of perceptual temporal areas for perceiving angry stimuli. Anger experience analysis resulted in the bilateral activations of the insula and the ventrolateral prefrontal cortex, thus revealing a role for these areas in the subjective experience of anger and, possibly, in a subsequent evaluation of the situation. Conjunction analyses revealed a common area localized in the right inferior frontal gyrus, probably involved in the conceptualization of anger for both perception and experience. Altogether these results provide new insights on the functional architecture underlying the neural processing of anger that involves separate and joint mechanisms. According to our tentative model, angry stimuli are processed by temporal areas, such as the superior temporal gyrus, the fusiform gyrus and the amygdala; on the other hand, the subjective experience of anger mainly relies on the anterior insula; finally, this pattern of activations converges in the right IFG. This region seems to play a key role in the elaboration of a general meaning of this emotion, when anger is perceived or experienced.

Keywords: Anger experience; Anger perception; Angry brain; Angry facial expression; Emotion; Social interaction.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Anger / physiology*
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging*
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping / methods*
  • Facial Expression
  • Female
  • Functional Neuroimaging / methods*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Perception / physiology*
  • Social Interaction
  • Young Adult