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Shimpei Ishiyama & Michael Brecht

For Rats (And Humans) Ticklish Is A State Of Mind

Brain scans of rats reveal they have to be in the right mood to enjoy getting tickled, just like humans.

By Evan Thomas | November 10, 2016

Scientists think tickling and laughter have a social role — in humans and in other animals, including rats. And just like you or me, rats have to be in the right mood to enjoy that.

Rats laugh when they're tickled, and being tickled can even make them more optimistic. Now researchers have figured out how their brains process those sensations.

SEE MORE: Bad Memories Turn Good In Weird Mouse Brain Study

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They found this tickle-happiness connection seems to go through the region responsible for touch — and depending on how active that part of the brain is, it can affect how ticklish the rats are.

Tickling fired it up so much that rats jumped for joy after humans played with them. Jolting this area with electricity made them laugh even when they weren't getting tickled. But putting them in stressful situations made that part of the brain quiet down — and they didn't respond as happily to being tickled.

One other interesting detail: When you tickle a human or a rat, both of their brains light up in the same spot.

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