Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Professor Science

Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Professor Science

Article excerpt

Dear Professor Science, Why can't you tickle yourself? If somebody sneaks up behind you and tickles your sides, you can't help but burst into fits of laughter. It's not just humans who experience this tickly sensation, chimps and rats also react in a similar way. When you are touched by someone else unexpectedly, you panic and laugh uncontrollably. However, if you try to tickle yourself it feels far less tickly.

The cells in your skin which detect touch cannot tell whether it is your own hands or someone else's touching your sides, the cells simply send a signal to the brain saying that something is touching you. Your brain decides whether this sensation was expected as it was caused by you, or unexpected and caused by something else.

For every movement you make your brain is able to predict what it will be able to sense as a result. As you push the buttons on a phone your brain expects the detector cells in the skin to feel the button. The brain compares its prediction with what you actually feel, if they match the brain does not take much notice of the sensation. …

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