http://www.wired.com/news/medtech/0,1286,66364,00.html You Can't Ignore My Wrath By Kristen Philipkoski 11:07 AM Jan. 24, 2005 PT You can try, but you can't ignore that angry voice yelling at you, or anyone else. Whether it's your dad, your girlfriend, your sister or a stranger, you must pay attention. Human brains are just wired that way, according to a study published in the Jan. 23 issue of Nature Neuroscience. Wrathful voices trigger a strong response in the brain, even when we are trying not to pay attention or the comments are meaningless, say researchers at the University of Geneva. Researchers at the University of Geneva found that the human brain is unable to ignore surly voices, no matter how much the brain's owner might want to.The circle shows the part of the brain activated by angry voices. Researchers at the University of Geneva found that even when study subjects tried to ignore angry voices, the brain's superior temporal sulcus showed enhanced activity. The brain appears to place a high priority on processing urgent sounds, like angry voices, that might indicate a threat is present. So, try as we might, when someone is angry the brain cannot avoid noticing, regardless of what the fuss is all about. "The new finding (is) that the influence of attention cannot diminish the brain activity associated with certain types of salient input: in this case, angry voices," said G. Ron Mangun, a cognitive neuroscience professor at the University of California at Davis, who did not participate in the research. This tells us that the brain will give priority to potentially important sensory signals, allowing them to penetrate our otherwise engaged minds, Mangun said. Didier Grandjean and his colleagues collected brain scans from people while they listened to both angry and neutral voices making comments that were irrelevant to the listeners, then compared the results to responses to neutral speech. Using functional MRI technology, the researchers could see what part of the brain was activated by the surly sounds. The angry voices increased activity in the superior temporal sulcus, a brain region associated with voice recognition. Even when the subjects were told to ignore an angry voice played to one ear and asked instead to listen to a neutral voice played to the other ear, the MRIs showed increased brain activity in the superior temporal sulcus. Previous studies showed a similar fundamental brain response when subjects saw angry or fearful faces. "The paper by Grandjean and colleagues cleverly pits attention against emotional relevance, and uses fMRI brain imaging to investigate whether or not attention can override the registration of highly emotionally relevant verbal input," Mangun said. "They find that ... this influence of attention cannot diminish the brain activity associated with certain types of salient input: in this case, angry voices." The research could have implications in learning more about normal, as well as diseased, brains, Grandjean said. "A better understanding of how the brain implements emotion and attention is crucial both for our understanding of the interactions between emotion and attention in normal individuals," Grandjean said, "and for the identification of potential cerebral dysfunctions in pathologies with affective disorders such as social anxiety, autism, schizophrenia or depression."