A most unusual experiment revealed that humans aren’t the only mammals that like to be tickled. A team of scientists has transformed overnight into professional rat ticklers, making the little guys shriek or rather chirp with joy.
As enjoyable this activity may seem, there’s a very good reason behind why several prestigious figures from the Humboldt University chose to conduct this experiment. Shimpei Ishiyama, an animal physiologists, declared that tickling rats in the name of science are one of the most unusual undertakings.
However, the purpose of this experiment is to uncover more facts about why people and some mammals such as rats and primates, tend to laugh and joy jump every time they get tickled. Furthermore, the study also wanted to discover what brain region or regions are responsible for this reflex.
To established what makes the rats shriek and jump every time they’re tickled, the scientists had to train them first. So, weeks before the experiment began, Ishiyama and his colleagues tickled and played with the lab rats in their enclosure.
When the experiment began, the rats were outfitted with a special sensor that monitoring their change in brain electrical activity each time they were tickled.
The preliminary results of the study revealed that the rats like tickles, but only when they were in a mood, so to speak. Ishiyama explained that every time he chased around the little rodents and tickled them on their belly, they responded by emitting a high-pitch shriek and by jumping around the enclosure.
On the other hand, as the scientist observed, when the rats were removed from their ‘safe space’ and put on a high platform or subjected from bright lights, they’ve stopped responded to tickles. The team theorized that the rats enjoyed the tickles every time they felt safe, and stopped responding to tickles when they were stressed.
Apart from determining that rats like tickles, the scientists also managed to pinpoint the exact area of the brain stimulated during the exercises. It would seem that tickles excite an area of the brain called the somatosensory cortex, which, is traditionally associated with physical sensations.
In light of this new evidence, it would seem that this brain area might also be involved in emotions. Of course, there’s more work to be done and more rats to be tickled in the name of science before we can learn more about how our brain is wired.
Image source: Wikipedia