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Rats giggle when tickled — but only when the mood is right


amp_brownAt parties and bars, he introduces himself as a “rat tickler.”

The title makes Shimpei Ishiyama sound like he belongs in some forgotten guild of yore, with the Victorian “pure-finders,” who collected dog dung for a living, and the “flankers and flaggers,” who kept partridges in the range of hunters’ guns.

But he is, in actual fact, a neuroscientist, and his rat-tickling is anything but antiquated. By trying to titillate these rodents — and recording how their neurons respond — Ishiyama and his adviser are unraveling a mystery that has puzzled thinkers ever since Aristotle posited that humans, given their thin skin and unique ability to laugh, were the only ticklish animals. Read more. 

Published by STAT November 10, 2016

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