AP Biology class blog for discussing current research in Biology

Tickle, Tickle!

You might be wondering, why am I ticklish? Or, why do I laugh if somebody else tickles me, but not when I try to tickle myself? The mystery of ticklishness has been sought after for decades, including by Darwin and Aristotle.

A recent study tested ticklishness on rats, and the results were astonishing! The rats reacted to human tickles with ultrasonic “laughter cells” and emitted various calls. While many humans are most ticklish on their armpits and stomachs, rats were found to be most ticklish on their bellies and underneath their feet. They performed “joy jumps” after being tickled, which is a behavior associated with joyful subjects in various mammals.




Researchers continued searching for answers, and sought to discover how being ticklish relates to the brain and whether or not it is a trick of the brain that rewards interacting.

When researchers Shimpei Ishiyama and Michael Brecht investigated the response of the rat’s brain to tickling, they observed nerve cells that responded strongly to tickling and they found very similar responses during play behaviors as during tickling- even without the scientist touching the rat. These nerve cells also worked in reverse. For example, if the rats were made anxious, they were less ticklish and the activity in these cells were reduced. It was discovered that activity in the trunk somatosensory cortex is what led to ticklishness.

The discovery of the connection between brain responses to tickling and play was incredible.


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1 Comment

  1. evansymes

    very interesting article GOLDGI. Your title was definitely successful in drawing me in. I Think its interesting that we’re not the only animals that laugh. I think the fact that we laugh as a result of being tickled is really interesting because it seems like being tickled has nothing to do with hearing a funny joke, and we react the same way to both of those things. I did some research and I found that in humans laughter that is a result of ticking and as a result of humor stimulate the same area of the brain, the “Rolandic Operculum, which controls facial movements and vocal and emotional reactions.” –
    The article I read also stated that tickling also stimulated the hypothalamus, which controls the fight or flight reactions. My takeaway would be that laughter can mean a lot of different things and that we shouldn’t see laughter as merely a person’s reaction to humor.

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