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Why do you laugh when tickled?

Have you ever wondered why do you laugh when tickled? And what is the mechanism behind this?
Well, I had and I want to share with you my findings.
You don’t spend a lot of time in any medical school learning about laughter. Almost at all. All you hear is that laugher is good for you, it’s “healthy” to have a good laugh, a hearty “belly” laugh, when you think you belly is going to explode…it is very soothing, alleviates pain (it is analgesic!), improves your mood, boosts your immune system and relieves stress. That’s all you can get in medical school. When it is studied in a more serious and scientific manner, it even has a Latin name, Gelotology (from the Greek gelos, meaning laughter) which is the study of laughter and its effects on the body. There is even a rare form of seizure, called gelastic seizure, often found in children, that causes one to laugh or giggle uncontrollably, with no apparent cause and no joyfulness in it, rather unpleasant and sardonic sounds.
Laughter is a complex process that requires the coordination of many muscles in the body. It is estimated that around 40-45 muscles take part in the laughing process, especially the facial muscles. We, humans, do have 53 facial muscles, but who’s counting?
Some researchers have tried to decipher the purpose of laughter and for me it is obvious that the reason for laughter has something to do with making human connections, a social signal of sorts that we are optimistic, we are enjoyable and fun for the potential mating partner. Who doesn’t want after all?
Studies have shown that people are thirty times more likely to laugh in social settings than when they are alone.
What about the connection between tickling and laughing?
It’s been studied by the evolutionary neuroscientists and biologists in Germany and they believe that this is an actual primal reflex. The physiological explanation of it goes like this: the part of the brain that tells us to laugh when we experience a light touch (the hypothalamus) is also the same part that tells us to expect a painful sensation (which is why you may accidentally lash out at someone who is trying to tickle you).
This is seen and interpreted by the brain as a defensive mechanism. We have evolved to send this signal out to show our submission to an aggressor, to dissipate a tense situation and prevent us from getting hurt. This also cast new light on why some people even start to laugh just with the threat of being tickled. Do you anyone like that? I do.
Our most ticklish parts are coincidentally our weakest spots, such as our neck, armpits or our stomach, and so the team at Tuebingen, Germany hypothesized that parents would have tickled their offspring to train them to react to danger and that the laughter of tickling is an acknowledgement of defeat.
So, why can’t we tickle ourselves? The scientists responded that, the cerebellum at the back of the brain tells you that you are about to self-tickle so the brain doesn’t waste any time and resources to interpret these signals, categorizing them as unimportant and irrelevant.
Are we the only mammals that laugh when tickled?
No, apes (gorillas, chimpanzees, bonobos and orangutans) laugh just like us when tickled! And the rats too! But they giggle at 50 kHz, which is outside of human audio range.
Now do me a favor and laugh at this article and give you heart and diaphragm a good workout! And stop tickling yourself, I am telling you, it is not working, no matter what!

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