The sensation of tickle has always been controversial, and science has not given rise to this sensation at the moment: it is associated with rice, but unlike something ‘pleasant’, the Italian language associates it with the verb ‘to suffer’. It is a feeling that certainly comes from contact, and is subjective and different in each person. Dr. Paolo Amami, neuropsychologist at Humanitas, spoke about tickle in an interview.

“According to some evolutionary interpretations – explained Dr. Amami – the duplicity of the feeling of laughter and discomfort would serve to learn a way of protecting and defending oneself through social play, since childhood teaching the child to protect areas of the body particularly vital and ‘defenseless’.

Tickle and human brain

In the last few years, research in the neurological field and on the functioning of the human brain has allowed science and medicine to take some steps forward to better define tickle thanks, for example, to the images of functional magnetic resonances, which photograph with different colors the areas of the brain activated in particular situations.

According to studies by experts and scientists of the University of Tuebingen, tickle activates the part of the brain that anticipates pain, for this reason when you are tickled you can accidentally hit the other with movements dictated by an unconditional reflex in response to pain.

Another theory – reported by Dr. Amami, however, explains the tickle as one of the first means by which children learn to relate primarily to the parent.

Different types of tickle and laughter

A tickling is that due to the intense and repeated solicitation of particular areas of the body (belly, armpits, hips, soles of the feet) causes as an automatic response to laughter; different is the case of a lighter tickling that generates only a slight discomfort which does not tend to correspond to a laughter. Just as there are two types of tickle, tickle laughter is different from fun laughter: the first also stimulates the hypothalamus, which controls “instincts” and instinctive reactions as well as hunger, fatigue and sexual behavior. Funny laughter, on the other hand, involves several different areas of the brain.