Brain Scans Show Bullies Enjoy Others' Pain

Brain Scans Show Bullies Enjoy Others' Pain
Friday, November 7, 2008 12:00 AM

FRIDAY, Nov. 7 (HealthDay News) -- Bullies may actually enjoy the pain
they cause others, a new study using brain scans suggests.

The part of the brain associated with reward lights up when an
aggressive teen watches a video of someone hurting another person, but
not when a non-aggressive youth watches the same clip, according to
the University of Chicago study, published in the currentBiological

"Aggressive adolescents showed a specific and very strong activation
of the amygdala and ventral striatum (an area that responds to feeling
rewarded) when watching pain inflicted on others, which suggested that
they enjoyed watching pain," researcher Jean Decety, a professor in
psychology and psychiatry at the University of Chicago, said in a
university news release. "Unlike the control group, the youth with
conduct disorder did not activate the area of the brain involved in
self-regulation (the medial prefrontal cortex and the temporoparietal

The study compared eight 16- to 18-year-old boys with an aggressive
conduct disorder to a group that didn't show unusual signs of
aggression. All participants underwent functional magnetic resonance
imaging (fMRI) while watching videos in which people endured pain
accidentally, such as when a heavy bowl was dropped on their hands,
and intentionally, such as when a person stepped on another's foot.

More information

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has more about
stopping bullying.

SOURCE: University of Chicago, news release, Nov. 7, 2008