Tickling! Isn’t it fun tickling your friends when you were kids. Laughing, making others laugh and making them submit to you. If you have not noticed yet, tickling is something that is quite challenging when you have to do it to yourself. Have you ever wondered why it so!?…. Well for years, scientists have been trying to figure it out.
When someone else tickles you, it activates a part of your brain called the hypothalamus which prepares you for pain. Some researchers think that you laugh when you are tickled because you are signaling submission to someone who has you in a vulnerable position. So it makes sense why you cant tickle yourself because you can’t surprise your own brain. Your brain is one step ahead of you. When you try to touch yourself somewhere, your brain is well aware where your fingers are gonna land and that it won’t hurt you. But when someone else is tickling you, you can’t predict where or when the tickle will strike. The unpredictability makes you more sensitive to the touch and the reaction is laughter. It also seems like a sense of agency is a key ingredient.
People who have schizophrenia, a neurological disorder that causes hallucination, seem to lack this awareness of their own movement and they can actually tickle themselves. That insight led researchers to try and come up with scenarios where people without schizophrenia could tickle themselves.
In one small experiment, researchers tried waking people up during REM sleep, when they were probably dreaming. They figured that since dreaming is similar to the hallucinations people with the disorder experience, the subjects might be able to tickle themselves if they tried right after they were woken from a dream. But unfortunately, no luck there. Overall, waking people up from REM sleep didn’t give them the ability to tickle themselves.
Few more experiments were carried out but none were as successful as someone else tickling the person. Their brain was aware that they were in the driver’s seat, doing the tickling. So if you really want to be tickled then you’re gonna have to ask your friend or someone else who would be really glad to see you laugh.