June 30th, 2012

Scientists may be a little strange…

…but rats are more like people than you might think:

Now may be as good a time as any to say that I am puzzled by people (or rats, for that matter) who like to be tickled. When I was growing up with an older brother, tickling was a reliable form of torture, and I was the torturee. The laughter that ensued was not happy-laughter.

But the rats appear to seek it out. Are they actually masochists?

[Hat tip: Althouse.]

8 Responses to “Scientists may be a little strange…”

  1. James Sullivan Says:

    My twins love to be tickled. The are three years old now and beg for my wife and I to tickle them. They really like to be tickled in their armpits, which I find especially bizarre since that is where I was always ticklish and I too found it to be torture. I don’t understand it. And my wife isn’t ticklish at all so she can’t identify at all.

  2. Steve Says:

    Have you heard about the study showing that male mice sing?


  3. J.J. formerly Jimmy J. Says:

    And who, pray tell, is paying for these studies?

  4. Steve Says:

    JJ, on the surface these studies may not seem important but if you think about how the nervous system works it is fascinating to see behaviors in mice that we associate with people. Studies of structure and function in the nervous system are pushing the limit of what is possible with biology.

  5. waltj Says:

    I never liked being tickled. Two of my cats agree with me. The third loves having his belly tickled. He’ll roll onto his back, purr loudly, and clearly enjoy the experience. Go for his paws, though, and you’ll learn quickly about his claws.

  6. SteveH Says:

    I’m ticklish but for some weird reason can’t tickle myself. Surely more rat studies will reveal this about them also.

  7. Militant Bibliophile Says:

    My wife will shriek in terror if you try to tickle her; my daughter considers it my major purpose in life to tickle her whenever she wants (which is often). Go figure.

  8. sergey Says:

    I worked a lot with small laboratory animals: mice, rats, guinea pigs and rabbits, and this does not surprise me a bit. There is a simple explanation. Early infancy is the happiest period of life for every mammalian sucking mother’s milk. And all this time mother licks her baby to keep its fur clean. This sensation is very alike tickling and ensures infant that mother is here and pays attention to it – the most important positive signal in its life. Humans are probably a rare exception because we do not possess fur and our mothers do not lick us.

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