You should know, you're a medic: Why can't you tickle yourself?
Marion Simpson delves into a longstanding mystery
- By: Marion Simpson
One way that is guaranteed to cheer up a tired, cross child or to reduce an adult to a simpering fit of giggles is a few light strokes on the sole of the foot or the armpit. Some people are more tickly than others, and ticklishness varies from situation to situation.1 But one question has baffled minds for years: why can't you tickle yourself ? Go on - try it. The sensation produced will never rival that of an external stimulus.
The sensation of tickle is perceived by the part of the brain called the somatosensory cortex (also called S1). Studies using functional magnetic resonance imaging, a technique which shows changes in brain activity in different situations according to cerebral blood flow, have shown increased S1 activity in response to an externally produced tactile stimulus. However, the same activity is not produced after an identical, self produced stimulus.2