Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

The Science Of Tickling (Ourselves) Is No Laughing Matter, Queen's Psychologist Says

Date:
January 18, 2006
Source:
Queen's University
Summary:
Anticipating our own touch -- for example in tickling oneself -- reduces its impact, says Queen's psychologist Dr. Randy Flanagan, a member of the university's Centre for Neuroscience Studies. This is evidence of an important human adaptation that helps us interact with objects in our environment.

Psychologist Randy Flanagan tests movement perception in Queen's Virtual Eye-Hand Coordination Laboratory.
Credit: Photo Stephen Wild

Anticipating our own touch -- for example in tickling oneself -- reduces its impact, says Queen's psychologist Dr. Randy Flanagan, a member of the university's Centre for Neuroscience Studies. This is evidence of an important human adaptation that helps us interact with objects in our environment.

Related Articles


An expert in eye/hand movement, Dr. Flanagan is part of an international team exploring sensory attenuation - the way that we filter out or "cancel" unnecessary information from the world around us.

Their study appears on-line today in the international journal Public Library of Science (PloS) - Biology. Led by Paul Bays of University College London, the team also includes Daniel Wolpert of Cambridge University.

"It's well-known that you can't tickle yourself," says Dr. Flanagan. "One explanation is that since all the sensations are completely predictable, we do 'sensory attenuation' which reduces our touch perception." Because people continually receive a barrage of sensory information, it's necessary to distinguish between what is caused by our own movements and what is due to changes in the outside world.

"If we try to deal with all the sensory information directed at us at any given time it's overwhelming," explains Dr. Flanagan. "We can't focus attention on crucial changes in our environment that aren't a function of our own motions." Animals in the wild, for example, use sensory cancellation when looking for prey and avoiding predators. They do this, in part, by blocking out changes in sensation that occur because of their own movements.

To study this phenomenon in humans, the research team used a task in which participants tapped, using one (active) index finger on a force sensor located just above the other (passive) index finger. A small motor delivered a tap to the passive finger that occurred at the same time as a tap of the active hand - which simulated tapping onto one's own finger through a solid object.

Previously the team had shown that people judge self-administered taps to be weaker than those not linked to their own motion.

On unexpected "catch" trials the force sensor was removed, so subjects didn't hit anything with the active finger. However, they still received a tap to the passive finger. And in these trials, attenuation or cancellation still occurred.

This suggests that sensory cancellation is based on predictive rather than "postdictive" mechanisms, the researchers say. In the catch trials, the brain predicts that a tap will occur and sensory cancellation takes place even though the active finger fails to deliver the tap.

"If sensory cancellation were postdictive and based on an analysis of sensory events after the tap, we would not expect cancellation in the catch trials," he explains. "The brain is constantly predicting the sensory feedback it's going to receive from our fingertips as we touch things in the world and act on that information."

Research has suggested that a breakdown in this predictive mechanism may underlie certain delusions in schizophrenia. If people fail to adequately filter sensory information arising from self-motion, they may erroneously attribute it to external causes, says Dr. Flanagan.

Funding for the study came from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, the Wellcome Trust, the Human Frontier Science Program and the Riken Brain Science Institute.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Queen's University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Queen's University. "The Science Of Tickling (Ourselves) Is No Laughing Matter, Queen's Psychologist Says." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 18 January 2006. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/01/060118090811.htm>.
Queen's University. (2006, January 18). The Science Of Tickling (Ourselves) Is No Laughing Matter, Queen's Psychologist Says. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 6, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/01/060118090811.htm
Queen's University. "The Science Of Tickling (Ourselves) Is No Laughing Matter, Queen's Psychologist Says." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/01/060118090811.htm (accessed March 6, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Mind & Brain News

Friday, March 6, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Former NFL Players Donate Brains to Science

Former NFL Players Donate Brains to Science

Reuters - US Online Video (Mar. 3, 2015) Super Bowl champions Sidney Rice and Steve Weatherford donate their brains, post-mortem, to scientific research into repetitive brain trauma. Jillian Kitchener reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Alzheimer's Protein Plaque Found In 20-Year-Olds

Alzheimer's Protein Plaque Found In 20-Year-Olds

Newsy (Mar. 3, 2015) Researchers found an abnormal protein associated with Alzheimer&apos;s disease in the brains of 20-year-olds. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
This Nasal Treatment Could Help Ease Migraine Pain

This Nasal Treatment Could Help Ease Migraine Pain

Newsy (Mar. 2, 2015) Researchers gave lidocaine to 112 patients, and about 88 percent of the subjects said they needed less migraine-relief medicine the next day. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
How Facebook Use Can Lead To Depression

How Facebook Use Can Lead To Depression

Newsy (Mar. 1, 2015) Margaret Duffy of the University of Missouri talks about her study on the social network and the envy and depression that Facebook use can cause. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins