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Say what?

 Rats actually laugh when tickled

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” Rats have been observed giggling when they’re tickled – but only when they’re in a good mood.

Researchers at Germany’s Humboldt University, who tickled young male rats for a new study published in Science, say they have shown “for the first time that laughter can be elicited by stimulation”.

Neurobiologist Shimpei Ishiyama told the LA Times that tickling induces a “primitive form of joy” in animals.

Ishiyama and researcher leader Dr Michael Brecht tickled the rats on their back, stomachs and tails and observed the animals’ responses, which included high-pitched vocalisations – laughter.

The tickled rats also displayed a behaviour known as Freudensprünge, or “joy jumps”, where their front and back legs would move in tandem.

Using electrodes, the scientists found that tickling prompted activity in the somatosensory cortex, where the rat’s brain processes touch.

They researchers also investigated whether the rats would only “laugh” if they were in a good mood.

They placed the animals on an elevated platform and subjected them to bright light to induce anxiety – and found that, under these circumstances, their vocalisations and brain activity were “significantly suppressed.”

Dr Brecht speculated that ticklishness could be “a trick of the brain to make animals or humans play or interact in a fun way.”   “(Adam Boult, www.telegraph.co.uk)

IMAGE  CREDIT: SHIMPEI ISHIYAMA AND MICHAEL BRECHT
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