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Is It Possible to Tickle Yourself?

Tickling oneself might seem like a paradox, as our brains typically predict and nullify our own touch sensations. However, under certain conditions, self-tickling can elicit a mild response. This phenomenon reveals intriguing insights into how our nervous system distinguishes between expected and unexpected stimuli. Wondering how this could change your understanding of sensation and perception? Let's explore the science behind it.

It's one thing to laugh at your own jokes, but try tickling yourself and see how unfunny you can be. However, there is one way to give yourself that tickled feeling: lightly touch the roof of your mouth with the tip of your finger. If you're like most people, you'll be surprised by the results -- even tickled, in fact.

Scientists say that the reason you can't tickle yourself in most ways -- such as touching the base of your foot or under your ribs -- is because your cerebellum is way ahead of you. That part of your brain monitors all expected sensations, so it won't allow you to be surprised by your own fingers the way you would be when a friend or relative launches a tickle attack.

In fact, the physiological response of feeling tickled may serve as a warning, in case the thing that's causing the sensation is a bug or a spider. Essentially, the ticklish feeling is your brain's defense mechanism kicking in.

An inside look at the cerebellum:

  • While the cerebellum makes up only 10 percent of your brain's size, it contains at least 50 percent of its nerve cells.

  • The cerebellum is the fastest-acting part of the brain, processing enormous amounts of information in a fraction of a second.

  • Every voluntary movement a person makes originates in the cerebellum.

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    • While it may be easy to tickle someone else, tickling yourself is almost impossible -- unless you gently touch the roof of your mouth with the tip of your finger.
      While it may be easy to tickle someone else, tickling yourself is almost impossible -- unless you gently touch the roof of your mouth with the tip of your finger.