Adorable Experiment Proves Rats Love to Be Tickled!

 

Newspaper articles about scientific experiments don’t generally inspire squeals of delight from readers, but a recent article in The New York Times…with some very cute accompanying videos…is guaranteed to put a smile on the face of any animal lover.  The experiment?  Rats just love a good tickle from us humans!

 

 

The New York Times article describes a study conducted by the Bernstein Center for Computational Neuroscience in Berlin.  Researchers set out to prove the theory that rats are so happy to get tickled that they emit ultrasonic squeals of joy that we can’t hear while they run towards our hands seeking out more tickles.

 

 

Analysis of rats’ brain activity, physical movements, and recordings of their ultrasonic squeaks during play sessions that involved tickling showed that not only did the rats encourage the humans to tickle them, they also “giggled” ultrasonically, and a part of their brain called the somatosensory cortex (which processes touch) became activated.

 

 

According to the scientists, rats and humans exhibit very similar tickle responses, even sharing the same tickle-sensitive body parts, like the soles of their back feet, but not their front feet.  The researchers note that positive tickle responses in social animals like rats (and us humans) indicates that touch is a very important part of the bonding process, and that our brains are wired to enjoy touch and play.

 

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