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Study: Why Being Ticklish Depends on One's Mood

Nov 21, 2016 04:00 AM EST
White Rats
Ever wondered why humans burts into an involuntary laugh when tickled? A new study reveals that the same effect happens on rats too, and it may be traced in our brain activity.
(Photo : China Photos/Getty Images)

The sensation of being tickled is something that polarizes people. While some enjoy the mild sensation across their skin, others do not appreciate the involuntary shrieks and fidgeting that comes with tickling. Nevertheless, whether it is enjoyable or unpleasant, the reason for laughter as a result of tickles remains a mystery.

There have been much scientific interest in uncovering details surrounding tickling. In the last few decades, more and more about the sensation have been discovered. Recently, a group of scientists from Berlin published a report that demonstrates the effect of mood to how the tickles are received.

In a study published in Science as reported by Smithsonian Magazine, researchers from Humboldt University in Berlin detailed the effects of tickling to mice as test subjects. The team focused on the rats' somatosensory cortex - the area of the brain responsible for responding stimuli.

Scientists tickled rats as part of the experiment. As a result, the rats exhibited a joyful response to the tickling. Following the introduction of the tickling stimuli, the rats even sought out the hands of the scientists that tickled them.

The rats were also subjected to anxiety-inducing situations by hauling them into a ten inch platform surrounded by bright lights. Scientists then proceeded to tickle the rats. Unlike the joyful response gathered from the first introduction of tickles, there was significantly less giggling when the rats are under stress.

According to Professor Michael Brecht, lead researcher, the data they uncovered seemed to shed light on what tickling is truly for.

"The data much look like we identified the ticklish spot in the rat brain. I also find the similarity of brain responses to tickling and play remarkable. Perhaps ticklishness is a trick of the brain that rewards interacting and playing" quipped Brecht as reported by Science Daily.

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