"Neurogelotology: Neuroscience of Fun" Dr. Shimpei ISHIYAMA
Shimpei ISHIYAMA, Dr.rer.nat.
'Freigeist' Junior Research Group Leader | Neurogelotology
University Medical Center of the Johannes Gutenberg-University Mainz
Institute of Pathophysiology, Germany
Title: Neurogelotology: Neuroscience of Fun
While we have extensive knowledge of negative experiences such as diseases, pain, and fear, little is known about how the brain process positive experiences including fun, happiness, and laughter. I believe that the study of positive emotions is equally, if not more important, for the current and future neuroscience, because such emotions are what we ultimately desire, and are often missing in pathopsychological conditions. Rats respond to tickling by humans with appetitive 50-kHz ultrasonic vocalizations and joy jumps, indicating positive emotions. We discovered deep-layer trunk somatosensory cortex represents neural correlates of ticklishness, and ambivalence in tickle anticipation. Furthermore, we found behavioural and neuronal representation of vicarious ticklishness i.e. contagion of positive emotions. Finally, our recent study suggests involvement of the insular cortex in processing of tickle-associated behaviours. Our studies provide a new insight into the neuronal basis of affective touch, which is conserved throughout the evolution of social animals. Our work on ticklishness shows that fun-associated behaviours can be studied in a rigorous manner.