By ERIC BOODMAN
At 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.
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