Cyberbullying Research - University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia

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Cyberbullying Research

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

Ethics Approval Number: A181135


Postdoctoral Research Fellow Dr Larisa McLoughlin is investigating the neurobiological underpinnings of cyberbullying. The study will use functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) to observe how the brain responds to witnessing cyberbullying.

Part of the study involves the development and testing of the CyPicS (Cyberbullying Picture Series), which will then form an integral part of the fMRI research. The study will gain insight into participants' personal experiences of cyberbullying and/or cybervictimisation, as well as levels of social connectedness and mental health and wellbeing.

Why is 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.

How will findings improve outcomes for young people?

The study can better identify abnormalities that may occur in the brain in young adults witnessing cyberbullying. This will help us pinpoint the target of early and appropriate interventions, and may assist in understanding the behaviours of those who defend and do not defend cyberbullying actions.

Research outcomes

What our research has revealed about the effects of cyberbullying on the brain and mental health.