Cyberbullying pilot study | UniSC | University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia

Accessibility links

Cyberbullying pilot study


The brain in response to cyberbullying: A functional MRI study of young adults witnessing cyberbullying.

We investigated the neurobiological underpinnings of cyberbullying using functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) to observe how the brain responds to witnessing cyberbullying.

Part of the study involved the development and testing of the CyPicS (Cyberbullying Picture Series) and gained insight into participants' personal experiences of cyberbullying and/or cybervictimisation, as well as levels of social connectedness and mental health and wellbeing.

Why was this study important?

While the links between cyberbullying and mental health outcomes are recognised, there has been limited research specifically examining links between cyberbullying and brain development in young people. Research has investigated the role of cyberbystanders, but little research has used real-time scenarios to measure how young people respond or react to cyberbullying.

The study is the first to use fMRI to examine brain activation in cyberbystanders, and will help researchers understand the neurobiological underpinnings that may be associated with cyber-victim/bully status and outcomes.

Research outcomes

The Cyberbullying Picture Series (CyPicS): Developed for Use in Cyberbullying and Cyberbystander Research

While research has examined cyber-bullying bystander responses in a traditional sense, there is a dearth of research regarding responses of in a real-time situation, such as observing a cyberbullying scenario. This article describes a novel protocol designed to develop a series of images to be used to undertake research that aims to examine cyberbystander responses

Neurobiological underpinnings of cyberbullying: A pilot functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging study

Key findings: Witnessing online bullying activates responses across many regions of the young adult brain, including regions linked to social and emotional processing. Females had a greater response in the brain region associated with empathy. Those with no prior experience of cyberbullying showed a greater response in the area of the brain responsible for feeling self-conscious.

Read our news item on this study

Elucidating the neurobiology of cyberbullying using functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI): A hypothesis

Key findings: There is a gap in research that uses functional MRI to examine the brain activation that occurs while a cyberbystander witnesses cyberbullying. This research paper establishes the first protocol for such research.

Literature reviews

Cyberbullying and adolescent neurobiology