Where Do I Sign Up For This Job?

20 March 2007 at 17:53 2 comments

This past weekend, John Tierny from the New York Times blogged about Jaak Panskepp, a Washington State University scientist who’s studied the chirping sounds rats make when they play to see if these sounds are equivalent to human laughter.

Best quote from Panskepp: “Then one day we decided to tickle some animals.”

To get the full effect you really need to watch the video of Panskepp tickling some rats. Their ultrasonic vocalizations are amplified by a device called a bat detector so you can hear the chirping. The ticklish rodents cheered me up so much, I’ve watched the clip three times already.

At first I wondered if the rats were really trying to communicate something more along the lines of “get away from me you big, hairless hand,” but Panskepp found that they will run mazes or perform other tasks in order to get tickled. They also seek out the company of other chirping rats, and the rats in the video chase Panskepp’s hand around the cage for more tickling.

I don’t think this is enough evidence to definitively equate chirping and laughter, but it does seem like the rats are enjoying themselves and that their sounds express that enjoyment.

Incidentally, Panskepp has what may be the best academic title I’ve heard: Baily Endowed Chair of Animal Well-Being Science.


Entry filed under: Humor, News, Science.

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. mars  |  21 March 2007 at 13:04

    that video makes me VERY happy. 🙂

  • 2. AmyP  |  21 March 2007 at 21:58

    I know! I just watched it again. I can’t help smiling.


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