“Let’s go tickle some rats”

They compiled data establishing, among other things, that certain areas of the body are particularly ticklish (the nape of the neck, for you do-it-yourselfers), that the most playful rats tend to be the most ticklish, that rats can become conditioned to chirp simply in anticipation of being tickled, that tickle response rates decline after adolescence, that young rats preferentially spend time with older ones who chirp more frequently, that the tickle response appears to generate social bonding, that chirping decreases in the presence of negative stimuli (such as the scent of a cat), that rats will run mazes and press levers to get tickled, etc. Based on their research and observations, Panksepp and his fellow researchers hypothesized that rats, when being tickled or engaging in other playful activities, experience social joy that they vocalize through 50 kHz chirping, a primordial form of laughter that is evolutionarily related to joyful social laughter in young human children.

Here is more, with further references and links at the bottom, and for the pointer I thank Michelle Dawson.

Comments

Ignoble nomination?

Dr. Panksepp and his rats appeared on a 2008 episode of NPR's RadioLab, along with many other laughter-related topics:

http://www.radiolab.org/2008/feb/25/

Early this year Tyler recommened Dale Peterson's fascinating book "Moral Lives of Animals". There are some personal stories of tickling pet rats in a chapter called laughter in animals.
"It's been about 4 weeks, that I have been tickling him (Pinky, the pet rat) everday and now, the second I walk into the room, he starts gnawing on the bars of his cage and bouncing around like a kangaroo until I tickle him. It's the funniest thing I have ever seen, even though my family thought I lost my mind until I showed them."

As always makes you wonder how much we don't know?

Makes me think of the book The Singing Neanderthals.

for those interested,
documentation of the original discovery of the phenomenon in panksepp's lab here:
http://www-psych.stanford.edu/~span/Publications/bk98jcp.pdf

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