Rats excited, ‘giggle” when tickled

Freudensprungen! That, as the New York Times explains, the scientific term for the jump of joy, and a new study shows that rats are some of the animals that participate.

The study, in fact, is to see that rats love to be tickled, and she burst into the equivalent of the rat laughter during tickling.

That laughing part was already known, but the new study sheds light on what is happening in the brain. In the study, neuroscientists from the German Humboldt University tickled young male rats in different ways and described their findings in Science, reports the Los Angeles Times.

Among the revelations: a stressed-out rat has no interest in being tickled, but the same rat, in essence, giggles when tickled under better circumstances. (It is too high-pitched for people to hear.) “They were so excited,” animal psychologist Shimpei Ishiyama tells Smithsonian.

“They were jumping around and she chased my hand. Pretty much like human children, giggling and chasing.” For the record, the belly seems to be the sweet spot.

The point of all this? Tickling is actually a sort of mystery for scientists, and they try to unravel the mysteries. Researchers tracked brain activity and found that certain cells fired during the actual tickling, and even while the rodents were just behind the tickler’s hand.

The last part was a surprise, but a larger, was that if the researchers stimulated the same brain cells with an electrical current, sans tickling, the rats behaved as if they were tickled, reports Science.

“Maybe ticklishness is a trick of the brain of animals or humans to play with or to communicate in a fun way,” speculates co-researcher Michael Brecht. (City rats will not find this development at all funny.)

This article originally appeared on Newser: Rats Love the Tickled

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