Tickling is a unique sensation; a pleasurable agony. There is seldom anyone who hasn’t got a tickle spot in his body. Even the most impassive of people, seeming to have a rhinoceros’ skin, will burst into laughter if tickled on the right spot. The laughter is a natural response of our body to foreign touch. But interestingly, people can’t do the same to themselves. Many people might have tried to tickle themselves, albeit unsuccessfully. Why can’t our fingers do the same if others’ can do it? Numerous researches have gone on this subject and the scientists have drawn some conclusions. The answer for this question lies in the specialty of our brain, the cerebellum to be precise.
Cerebellum, one of the core components that form the brain, is situated at the base of the brain. This is responsible for tracking the movements our body. Its ability to differentiate between our actions and foreign actions on our body is seminal in keeping our self-awareness intact. So, it can predict sensations caused by our movements but not by others. When we try to tickle ourselves, the cerebellum already anticipates this action and it negates any response the brain would produce to the tickle. It can differentiate between expected and unexpected sensations. Cerebellum considers our own touch as secondary when compared to foreign touch.
There are two regions of the brain that are involved in triggering the sensations caused by tickling. The first one, named somatosensory cortex, processes touch and the other, anterior cingulate cortex, processes pleasant information. Research has shown that both are relatively less active during self-tickling than they are while we are being tickled by someone else. It is because the cerebellum produces signals that put a damper on the activities of these two parts when we move our body parts. We are not aware of the many sensations caused by our movements since cerebellum suppresses them.
Even though nobody can tickle themselves, there are some rare exceptions in this subject, as with most of the cases. In a very few cases, people can tickle themselves. For example, people with schizophrenia can tickle themselves. The reasons for the specialty continue to evade the scientists. And thanks to the light-speed development of technology, scientists have also been able to develop a robot tickler, which assists one to tickle oneself. The scientists around the world are pursuing this fascinating phenomenon tirelessly to understand more about the human brain.
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