We tend to see rats as harmful rodents that spread diseases and it’s understandable why we rarely think they are actually cute creatures.
But this 2016 study shows them in a different light — there’s one thing in which they are very like humans and it’s pretty unexpected. The study conducted in Berlin, Germany found that rodents respond to tickling similarly to humans, by “producing noises and other joyful responses.”
The researchers spent three years studying the rats’ behavior when tickled. They found that the rats giggled and laughed and sometimes even chased the hand that was tickling them, looking for more.
The experiment was about more than just figuring out how rats react to tickling. The researchers hoped it would shed light on brain activity in humans that creates emotions associated with tickling. What they found is that the joy and laughter can happen when the somatosensory cortex — the area that responds to touch — is stimulated.
The main reason why rats and other rodents are often used for lab testing is that they resemble humans in their behavior and genetics.