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Effects of bullying on the brain identified

It doesn’t take a scientist to know that bullying can lead to stress and social anxiety. But researchers at Rockefeller University have recently discovered what exactly happens in the brain when an individual is intimidated.

After small, young mice had been placed in the presence of older, more aggressive rodents, the newcomers were forced to battle it out with the murine bullies. After placing the victims back into a normal social situation, the team of scientists examined the brain activity in the youngsters.

They found that the intimidation led to an increased sensitivity to a hormone associated with elevated levels of stress. This especially affected the amygdala, a region in the brain associated with emotion.

“We found that chronic social stress affects neuroendocrine systems that are paramount for adaptive mammalian social behaviors such as courtship, pair-bonding and parental behaviors,” says Yoav Litvin, lead researcher.

Authors of the study noted that such changes may lead to other serious disorders, such as depression and schizophrenia.