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The Science Behind: Being Tickled

Cover page- Ishita Baghel

It lurks around bringing complete darkness with it... Its merciless eyes blind those who stare into them... It preys on the most vulnerable creatures... It is the definition of evil... It's - it's - it's- the tickle monster!

Yes. That tickle monster. Nonetheless of how evil it is, the tickle monster was apart of many childhoods. Being tickled is actually more complex than it seems. In this process, both psychology and health come into play. So why exactly are we ticklish? Is there a way to stop feeling ticklish? Are there any benefits to being ticklish? Why do we laugh when tickled?

Defense - Why We Feel Ticklish

One theory that scientists have made to why we feel ticklish revolves around defense mechanisms. Being ticklish is a way of defense for your body to protect vulnerable areas such as your neck or feet. Through stages of evolution, our body is prone to react to when certain areas are attacked (mainly through tickling). When we feel tickled, we are most likely to defend ourselves from the tickler or attacker. Being ticklish comes in handy to sensing and preventing bug bites. Those pesky mosquitoes really need to be taught a lesson!

Why We Laugh When Tickled

The main aim of tickling somebody is to either annoy them or make them laugh. Again, the main mystery in tickling is why we laugh. Why do we laugh our heads off when we're tickled? A study was conducted and scientists came to a conclusion. They found that when tickled, your hypothalamus is stimulated. To break it down, your hypothalamus is the part of your brain that controls your emotional reactions and responses to things such as pain. It's a big word with a big job!

When you laugh when being tickled, you're not doing it because it's funny or humorous, you do it as a response to being "attacked". (Remember the defense mechanisms?) You laugh when you're being tickled because you are having an emotional response as a result of your hypothalamus being stimulated. Again, being tickled is like being attacked. The way your body moves when you're tickled is the same movements as when you're in severe pain.

How to Stop Being Ticklish

If you truly feel uncomfortable with the idea of being tickled, here's how to stop being ticklish! One part of our brain is called the cerebellum. It helps us predict how certain sensations caused by your own movements will feel on your skin. Now, I would like you to attempt to tickle yourself. If you did this, I doubt that it will make you react as much as when another person tickles you. This is because your cerebellum already knows how the sensation will feel like. It already knows that tickly feeling and so, your reaction to being tickled is suppressed. However, your cerebellum doesn't quite know how being tickled will feel when other people tickle you. And so, your cerebellum can't make a prediction and your hypothalamus will be stimulated, causing you to laugh or giggle.

Now, to prevent your timely reaction of laughing when tickled, simply place your hands onto the tickler's hands. By doing this, your cerebellum gets back in control and has a better prediction of how the sensation will feel like. And then, as you know, your reaction will be suppressed, your hypothalamus won't be activated, and all is well.

Benefits of Being Tickled

  1. It improves your bond with others

  2. You feel more energetic from laughing(Blood circulation produces more oxygen)

  3. Your brain functions faster

  4. You become less stressed

  5. Protection from heart diseases & your heartbeat and pulse become better

  6. The left and right sides of your brain come in sync

Now you know why you feel ticklish, the benefits of being tickled, and why you laugh when tickled! You also know how to defeat the tickle monster without needing a cheesy action and stunt sequence! I hope this article has filled you in on the scoop behind tickling!

Keep smiling!







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