Show Details

The Ticklish Brain

November 11, 2016

Researchers find that tickled rats display complex emotional responses similar to those of children.


Ticklish Rats

Tickling a rat evokes ultrasonic chirps. (Ishiyama and Brecht, Science, 2016)


Ticklish rats. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

(Rat chirps)

These chirps are the slowed-down ultrasonic giggles of rats being tickled. Yes, years of rat tickling research has revealed that rats enjoy being tickled, especially on their bellies. Now, in the journal Science, Humboldt University of Berlin researchers Shimpei Ishiyama and Michael Brecht present an extensive report on ticklishness in rats including the neural pathways involved.

MICHAEL BRECHT (Humboldt University of Berlin):

It’s the new aspect of our work to really pinpoint the ticklish spot in the rat brain. and that will give us a better handle on the strange sensation.


That’s Michael Brecht, who adds that understanding the ne uronal basis for ticklishness will help researchers study the effect more systematically, and eventually learn how ticklishnessnes relates to human mood, emotion, and social interaction.

(Rat chirps)

Plus it’s irresistibly fascinating and fun.  I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.

Story by Bob Hirshon with research by Susanne Bard