No one likes a bully, so what makes someone a bully to begin with? If there was some way that scientists could identify where bullying begins, maybe that could be the end of the awful behavior some kids exhibit. That’s what a group of researchers at New York University have been working on and they believe they have found the cause and solution to bullying.
In order to find where bullying begins, scientists needed to find where the tendency towards violence and aggression originates in the brain. While this area of the brain is where bullying begins, it is also where various other psychiatric disorders stem from as well. The hope of scientists working on this effort is to someday create a drug that would eliminate the urge for aggression or violence. They are a long way off from this type of pill, but what they’ve found so far has been promising.
The scientists have been using mice in their experiment and have found that the ventrolateral part of the ventromedial hypothalamus (VMHvl) is where urges towards violence begin. The hypothalamus is also responsible for sleep regulation, feelings of hunger and body temperature regulation. According to Dayu Lin, a scientist on the team, the circuits in this area of the brain is where feelings of aggression build up before a person or animal attacks. She notes that this area of the brain is where behavior like bullying begins, as well as other violent actions like sexual abuse.
In order to fully understand where behaviors like bullying begins, the research team had to create scenarios in which the mice they were studying would feel the need to be aggressive. This involved training the stronger mice to attack the weaker mice. While this bullying was going on, the scientists were measuring the brain activity of the mice who were attacking. Based on how urgently and aggressively the stronger mice were attacking, scientists collected data on brain activity when this was happening.
Based on the data being collected, the scientists were able to observe a pattern of activity in the VMHvl region of the brain that peaked just as one of the stronger mice was looking for another mouse to attack. When a victim was found, activity in the VMHvl increased greatly. After observing this, the scientists blocked the VMHvl activity in the mouse’s brain. This proved to prevent aggressive behavior without preventing other bodily functions that the VMHvl controls.
Previous attempts by scientists have been made to ease aggression by implanting electrodes into the brain, which would keep these feelings at a manageable level. Lin and the team believe that a medication is a much safer and approachable method to help mentally ill patients.