Road rage is increasingly common. Experts say aggressive driving is on the uptick, perhaps a function of pervasive stress and, possibly, a function of biogas fumes.
A new study, published in the open access journal BMC Physiology, has shown that rats exposed to fumes from leaded and unleaded gasoline become more aggressive.
Unfortunately, aggressive behavior is often contagious, with significant self-discipline required when someone cuts you off or goes to the front of a lane that is clearly marked as being closed, fully expecting that they will move to the front of the pack.
According to experts, no matter what happens on the road, you have to stop yourself from taking it personally. The guy who just cut you off doesn’t know you, and he would have done it to anyone. If you react by returning the favor, you are going to tick him off even more.
Amal Kinawy, from Cairo University, Egypt, examined the emotionally incendiary properties of gasoline in three groups of male rats, each exposed to either leaded-gas fumes, unleaded-gas fumes or clean air.
As well as observing the animals’ behavior, she studied any resulting neurological and physiological changes.
She said, “Millions of people every day are exposed to gasoline fumes while refueling their cars. Exposure can also come from exhaust fumes and, particularly in the developing world, deliberate gasoline sniffing as a means of getting high.”
The research demonstrates that rats exposed to either kind of fuel vapor showed increased aggressive behavior, such as more time spent in belligerent postures and increased numbers of actual attacks, in comparison to the clean air group.
Examination of the animals’ brains after the experiment revealed significant differences between all three groups.
According to Kinawy, “Rats exposed to unleaded gasoline showed indications of increased damage caused by free radicals and altered levels of neurotransmitters in the brain cortex region, in comparison with the control or leaded gasoline groups.
“Furthermore, inhalation of both fuels induced significant fluctuations in neurotransmitters in the hypothalamus, hippocampus and cerebellum.”
Kinawy concludes, “Heightened aggression may be yet another risk for the human population chronically exposed to urban air polluted by automobile smoke.”
Therefore, the escalation in aggression may be a function of our polluted air — a situation that affects everyone and an ‘environment’ in which everyone must work to diffuse emotional engagement.
Source: BioMed Central