What are the origins of aggression? Is there a hormone of aggression that causes aggressive behavior?
Aggressive behavior is closely related to almost all living things on the planet. Aggression is widespread in the animal kingdom as a struggle for food, territory and females. Often, animals become aggressive towards their children. When the young grow up and know how to independently get their own food and navigate the terrain, the older generation drives them out of the territory. Such an irrational behavior from the point of view of a person has a logical rationale - adults defend their territory, since a limited number of resources for a certain number of individuals are located on it.
Human society, with all the development of culture, has not gone so far from our smaller brothers. For example, the Parisians of the 16th century were very fond of one "entertainment" - to hang cats by the tail and slowly burn them at the stake. The animal howled and tormented, burning alive, and people stood and laughed, finding this sight very hilarious. Public executions were also largely organized for the amusement of the people.
Much time has passed: human life is now proclaimed the greatest value, and there are many laws prohibiting aggressive behavior - but, nevertheless, it is impossible to eradicate it completely.
Studies of the human body show that psychology is largely biochemical. Many hormones that affect emotions have even got their names. For example, adrenaline is a fear hormone and dopamine is a joy hormone.
Certain hormones are also behind aggressive behavior. First of all, it is norepinephrine.
Norepinephrine and adrenaline are two hormones very similar to each other, both in chemical formulas and in their effect on the human body. Moreover, adrenaline is synthesized from norepinephrine.
Both of these hormones are synthesized in the adrenal glands when threatened. If a person finds himself in a situation that threatens his health, then from the brain, and, more specifically, from the hypothalamus, an impulse enters the adrenal glands, forcing them to secrete a huge amount of these two hormones into the blood.
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Norepinephrine and adrenaline bring the body into a state of alertness: blood vessels narrow and breathing quickens, coupled with the heart rate, muscles are toned. Even the immune system is activated to neutralize infection in the event of a wound.
But the two hormones differ in the way they stimulate in response to danger. No wonder adrenaline is called the "fear hormone" or "rabbit hormone", because it just stimulates the escape.
But norepinephrine is called the "rage hormone" or "lion's hormone", as this molecule is more likely to make you fight back and attack in response. The ratio of these two hormones is based on the response to danger - "fight or flight".
Norepinephrine generally activates the nervous system and suppresses the wakefulness centers in the brain. Everyone is familiar with the state when, under stress, a person cannot sleep - this is due to the action of norepinephrine. You cannot explain to hormones that before an important but terrible event from a subjective point of view (exam, interview, etc.), on the contrary, you need to get enough sleep. The body blindly takes these events as a threat and stimulates the production of norepinephrine.
However, norepinephrine also stimulates learning processes in order to remember the way out of a dangerous situation.
The largest number of norepinephrine receptors are located in the area of the brain called the blue spot. It is noted that people with a choleric, "explosive" temperament have a very high activity of the blue spot.
Another function of norepinephrine is to stimulate the production of positive emotions after avoiding danger. Excitement and risk, joy after extreme sports - all this arises thanks to norepinephrine. Even computer games can stimulate the release of norepinephrine, so the joy of completing a virtual level is actually quite real and has a biochemical basis.
Another hormone responsible for aggressive behavior is testosterone, which is considered a male hormone (although it is also produced in women).
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Testosterone is somewhat similar to norepinephrine in that it can make you want to fight. Winners are known to have higher testosterone concentrations than losers. At the same time, high testosterone levels correlate with a propensity for aggressive behavior, which is why criminals were castrated in the United States in the 30s of the twentieth century. But this measure of action did not lead to a decrease in aggressiveness, which makes one wonder if only hormones provide aggression? Is it possible that aggressive behavior is a social construct?
Experiments on animals prove the correctness of this assumption. If an animal is castrated before it starts to conflict and fight with other animals, then its aggressiveness will decrease. But if you castrate an adult animal that has repeatedly fought for resources and is accustomed to fighting, then the level of its aggressiveness will not fall, although testosterone will be less.
Asocial behavior has even been linked to blood sugar - when it is low, the supply of the brain is disrupted, which can lead to violent behavior. In particular, alcohol greatly lowers sugar levels - and it is no secret to anyone that intoxicated a person can be capable of very cruel acts - fights and even murder.
However, scientists believe that it is not hormones that play the leading role in aggression, but social behavior, upbringing and living conditions. Perhaps this explains the behavior of the Parisians in the 16th century - it is unlikely that hormones began to rage sharply in them, rather, aggression was encouraged in society. Therefore, it is hardly worth counting on the invention of a miracle - a pill that would instantly destroy all aggression, probably a problem in social conditions. And while the exact nature of aggression is still a question, it is hoped that one day science will find an answer to it.