Teen Bullying: Why Some Find It Rewarding

Teen bullying has been a common occurrence for generations. Most of us have experienced a form of bullying at some point in our lives. According to the American Society for the Positive Care of Children, 28 percent of students 12 to 18 years-old report being bullied at school. Why do some kids find teen bullying so rewarding? A recent article by Medical News Today states that new research has uncovered why some people might find teen bullying and aggression rewarding.

Research on Teen Bullying

Researchers now believe that aggressive behavior and teen bullying is associated with an inappropriate activation of the brain’s reward system. A recent study conducted by the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, investigated the neural connections of teen bullying behavior in mice. The researchers looked at how the region of the brain connected to aggression-related behaviors was effected by other brain areas.

Scott Russo, Ph. D. who published the study states:
“Our study is the first to demonstrate that bullying behavior activates a primary brain reward circuit that makes it pleasurable to a subset of individuals. Furthermore, we show that manipulating activity in this circuit alters the activity of brain cells an ultimately, aggressive behavior.”

The Study

To conduct the study, researchers introduced a young, subordinate mouse to an adult male for 3 minutes each day for 3 consecutive days. Under these conditions, 70 percent of the adult mice acted aggressively toward the younger mouse, and 30 percent showed no aggression. Once the mice had been identified as aggressors or non-aggressors, researchers used a technique called conditioned place preference, to determine if the environment was associated with positive or negative experiences.

The study revealed that the aggressive mice, demonstrating similar behaviors to teen bullying, developed a preference towards the area in which the bullying took place—where the less aggressive mice developed an aversion to the situation. Ultimately showing that the aggressive mice found bullying to be rewarding.

Researchers also studied how certain areas of the brain reacted when bullying was taking place. When the aggressive mice were given the opportunity to partake in behaviors similar to teen bullying, the researchers saw a spike of GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) projection neurons leading to the area of the brain known to be involved in aversion to aggressive stimuli.

Researchers hope this new research will help provide a better understanding of why actions of teen bullying is so common for certain people. They hope that this research will eventually lead to new treatments for psychiatric conditions in which aggression is a prominent feature.

Asheville Academy Can Help!

Asheville Academy, a residential treatment center in a traditional school setting for girls 10-14, helps teen girls struggling with anxiety, depression and other emotional and behavioral issues. If your daughter’s worries about bullying are more than just normal fears, consider sending her to Asheville Academy, a therapeutic boarding school. With a caring staff and a clinically based program, Asheville Academy can help your daughter feel safe.

For more information about Asheville Academy, contact us today at 800.264.8709

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