Pharmaceutical Sciences Faculty Presentations

Immature Beta-Adrenergic Overactivity Can Cause Rage Behavior in Children

Document Type

Conference Presentation

Event Date



American Scientific Affiliation Annual Meeting


Washington, DC


Early research in psychiatry considered adrenaline as a key neurotransmitter that influenced behavioral health while later studies emphasized serotonin. Though this new understanding of serotonin’s role improved therapeutic care of some major psychiatric disorders, the role of adrenergic agents gradually disappeared.

Given that, in recent times, chronic use of psychopharmacological agents has increased among children, the purpose of this talk is to present an alternative approach based on three successful cases of treating rage behavior using beta-adrenergic receptor blocker (propranolol). As mature adrenergic activity is critical for control of fight and flight response among healthy adults, this study proposes that immature beta-adrenergic overactivity can cause rage behavior in children.

Three patients, ages 3 to 6 years, who showed intense, frequent, impulsive, intrusive rage behavior along with profuse sweating, pupil dilation, and high pulse rate, were initially treated with 60mg/day of propranolol. Gradually the dosage was titrated to 160mg/day. Within a few weeks, frequency and intensity of rage decreased. Gradually propranolol was tapered and discontinued after one year. Over the next five years, these patients rarely showed rage behavior.

These results indicate that an assessment of immature beta-adrenergic overactivity in the diagnostic procedure of rage behavior may decrease chronic use of psychopharmacological agents in children. This minor modification to the current behavioral health assessment policy may be the first step toward promoting judicious use of medications, especially among children.


Rage behavior, children, adrenergic, adrenaline, pharmaceuticals