Why it's impossible to tickle yourself

Many of us are ticklish, but cannot tickle ourselves. [Photo: Getty]
Many of us are ticklish, but cannot tickle ourselves. [Photo: Getty]

Being ticklish is incredibly common: many of us can’t bear others tickling our feet, armpits, stomachs and other body parts.

Scientists have debated why we’re ticklish for years, with some saying it’s rewarding. Simply put, it causes laughter – and most of us like to laugh.

Others say it’s a source of social bonding and a great way for parents and children to communicate.

But, somewhat oddly, you can’t tickle yourself.

This is all to do with how we distinguish between our selves and other people touching us, according to a new study by Linköping University in Sweden.

Our brains can tell when we touch ourselves compared to when someone else does it, and this means we are much less sensitive to it.

Why? In a nutshell, when you tickle yourself you know it’s coming – it lacks the element of surprise.

This in turn affects how your brain processes it, because it knows you are the cause of what you are feeling.

We saw a very clear difference between being touched by someone else and self-touch. In the latter case, activity in several parts of the brain was reduced,” explained Rebecca Böhme, the study’s principal author.

Previous studies have found there are two brain parts which are activated when we are tickled, known as the somatosensory cortex (which processes touch) and the anterior cingulate cortex (which processes happy things) .

These brain parts get much more stimulation when other people tickle us, compared to when we touch ourselves.

Interestingly, schizophrenics are sometimes an exception to this rule, because their brain processes sensory perceptions from their own body differently, meaning in some cases patients can tickle themselves.

Recently, scientists discovered how falling in love changes a woman’s body.

According to a new study conducted by researchers at the University of California, falling in love with someone sparks genetic changes in women’s bodies.

Researchers analysed genetic changes in those who fell in love and discovered that when Cupid’s arrow struck, women were not only affected psychologically but physically too, through palpitations and obsessive thinking.

The team also found that falling head over heels led women’s genes to produce interferon – a protein which usually fights viruses.

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