Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Bullies May Enjoy Seeing Others In Pain

Date:
November 7, 2008
Source:
University of Chicago
Summary:
Unusually aggressive youth may actually enjoy inflicting pain on others, research using brain scans shows. Scans of the aggressive youth's brains showed that an area that is associated with rewards was highlighted when the youth watched a video clip of someone inflicting pain on another person. Youth without the unusually aggressive behavior did not have that response, the study showed.

When youth with aggressive conduct disorder watch an individual intentionally hurting another (like closing a piano lead), regions of the brain that process painful information are activated, as well as the amygdala and ventral striatum (part of the neural circuit involved in reward processing. These adolescents seem to enjoy seeing people in pain.
Credit: Photo by Jean Decety, University of Chicago

Unusually aggressive youth may actually enjoy inflicting pain on others, research using brain scans at the University of Chicago shows.

Related Articles


Scans of the aggressive youth's brains showed that an area that is associated with rewards was highlighted when the youth watched a video clip of someone inflicting pain on another person. Youth without the unusually aggressive behavior did not have that response, the study showed.

"This is the first time that fMRI scans have been used to study situations that could otherwise provoke empathy," said Jean Decety, Professor in Psychology and Psychiatry at the University of Chicago. "This work will help us better understand ways to work with juveniles inclined to aggression and violence."

Decety is an internationally recognized expert on empathy and social neuroscience. The new research shows that some aggressive youths' natural empathetic impulse may be disrupted in ways that increase aggression.

In the study, researchers compared eight 16- to 18-year-old boys with aggressive conduct disorder to a control group of adolescent boys with no unusual signs of aggression. The boys with the conduct disorder had exhibited disruptive behavior such as starting a fight, using a weapon and stealing after confronting a victim.

The youth were tested with fMRI while looking at video clips 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.

"The aggressive youth activated the neural circuits underpinning pain processing to the same extent, and in some cases, even more so than the control participants without conduct disorder," Decety said.

"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," he said. 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 junction).

The control group acted similarly to youth in a study released earlier this year, in which Decety and his colleagues used fMRI scans to show 7- to 12-year-olds are naturally empathetic toward people in pain.

The scans showed that when the children saw animations of someone hurt accidentally, the same portion of the brain that registered pain when they are hurt also was highlighted upon seeing someone else hurt. When they saw someone intentionally hurt, the portion of the brain associated with understanding social interaction and moral reasoning was highlighted.

The National Science Foundation supported the work.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Chicago. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Benjamin Lahey, Kalina Michaslska and Yuko Akitsuki. Atypical Empathetic Responses in Adolescents with Aggressive Conduct Disorder: A functional MRI Investigation. Biological Psychology, (in press)

Cite This Page:

University of Chicago. "Bullies May Enjoy Seeing Others In Pain." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 7 November 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/11/081107071816.htm>.
University of Chicago. (2008, November 7). Bullies May Enjoy Seeing Others In Pain. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 27, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/11/081107071816.htm
University of Chicago. "Bullies May Enjoy Seeing Others In Pain." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/11/081107071816.htm (accessed November 27, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Mind & Brain News

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Are Female Bosses More Likely To Be Depressed?

Are Female Bosses More Likely To Be Depressed?

Newsy (Nov. 24, 2014) — A new study links greater authority with increased depressive symptoms among women in the workplace. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Winter Can Cause Depression — Here's How To Combat It

Winter Can Cause Depression — Here's How To Combat It

Newsy (Nov. 23, 2014) — Millions of American suffer from seasonal depression every year. It can lead to adverse health effects, but there are ways to ease symptoms. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Could Your Genes Be The Reason You're Single?

Could Your Genes Be The Reason You're Single?

Newsy (Nov. 21, 2014) — Researchers in Beijing discovered a gene called 5-HTA1, and carriers are reportedly 20 percent more likely to be single. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Milestone Birthdays Can Bring Existential Crisis, Study Says

Milestone Birthdays Can Bring Existential Crisis, Study Says

Newsy (Nov. 21, 2014) — Researchers find that as people approach new decades in their lives they make bigger life decisions. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins