Links between adolescent bullying and neural activation to viewing social exclusion

Michael T. Perino, João F. Guassi Moreira, Eva H. Telzer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Neuroscientists who have studied bullying have primarily focused on the psychopathology of diagnosable offenders or the resulting symptomatology of victimization. Less attention has been given to theories that suggest that bullying may be an interpersonal strategy. In an exploratory study, we recruited a sample of adolescents (N = 24) who engaged in high rates of delinquent behavior and collected self-report ratings of bullying behaviors. During an fMRI scan, adolescents observed instances of social exclusion and social inclusion. The adolescents’ self-reported bullying was associated with greater ventral striatum, amygdala, medial prefrontal cortex, and insula activation when viewing social exclusion > social inclusion. Activation in these regions is commonly associated with reward-learning, salience monitoring, and motivational processes, suggesting that bullies show altered processing of interpersonal cues and social dynamic experiences in their environment. Our findings highlight the need for developmental neuroscientists to further explore the role of social motivation in processing socio-affective information, with a particular focus on goal-directed antisocial behavior.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1467-1478
Number of pages12
JournalCognitive, Affective and Behavioral Neuroscience
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1 2019


  • Aggression
  • Bullying
  • Cyberball
  • fMRI


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