Graduate students get a lot of grunt work, but Washington State University’s Jaak Panksepp had a doozy when the inspirational lightening struck him to tickle rats:
“I had my tongue in my cheek when I first suggested that possibility to my student, Jeff Burgdorf.
“Waking up with that idea struck me as a delusional inspiration, but we tested it, and were blown away by the vigour and consistency of the result.”
After numerous tests over a number of years, Panksepp goes on to make a most delightful conclusion:
“This is simply the best measure of social joy in animals we have.”
Science has concluded that great apes and rodents seem to make laughter-like sounds, so researchers are now combing the Internet for clips from anything from owls to camels to dolphins making “positive vocalizations.” Whether the explanation is as simple as Professor Michael Owren’s theory that the reaction has something to do with the mammalian nervous system or Dr. Marina Davila-Ross’ idea that laughter may have evolved with the rise of a species’ positive communications between individuals, it’s still one area of research that sure to result in a few smiles along the way.
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