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Fortunately, there is one small branch of the vagus nerve that can be stimulated without surgery, located in the skin of specific parts of the outer ear. In Leeds, previous research has shown that applying a small electrical stimulus to the vagus nerve at the ear, which some people perceive as a tickling sensation, improves the balance of the autonomic nervous system in healthy year-olds. Other researchers worldwide are now investigating if this transcutaneous vagus nerve stimulation tVNS could provide a therapy for conditions ranging from heart problems to mental health.

Diane Crossley, aged 70, from Leeds, took part in the study and received the tVNS therapy for two weeks.

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She said: "I was happy to be a participant in this really interesting study, it helped me with my awareness of my own health. They recruited 29 healthy volunteers, aged 55 or above, and gave each of them the tVNS therapy for 15 minutes per day, over a two week period.

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Participants were taught to self-administer the therapy at home during the study. The therapy led to an increase in parasympathetic activity and a decrease in sympathetic activity, rebalancing the autonomic function towards that associated with healthy function.

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In addition, some people reported improvements in measures of mental health and sleeping patterns. Being able to correct this balance of activity could help us age more healthily, as well as having the potential to help people with a variety of disorders such as heart disease and some mental health issues. Additionally, improving the balance of the autonomic nervous system lowers an individual's risk of death, as well as the need for medication or hospital visits.

Researchers found that individuals who displayed the greatest imbalance at the start of the study experienced the most pronounced improvements after receiving the therapy. They suggest that in future it may be possible to identify who is most likely to benefit from the therapy, so it can be offered through a targeted approach.

'Tickle' therapy could help slow aging

Dr Susan Deuchars, one of the senior authors on the study, said: "We believe this stimulation can make a big difference to people's lives, and we're now hoping to conduct further studies to see if tVNS can benefit multiple disorders. Skip to main content. Tickling is an important sign that someone or something is touching you.

In general, there are two types of tickles.

There are good tickles, like when your family or friends tickle you and make you laugh. And there are bad tickles, like when you can feel a bug on you. Over the hundreds of thousands of years that humans have been around, being ticklish has had its advantages.

Bad tickles

Tickling tells us when there is a bug or something else crawling on our skin. The reason why we feel ticklish is because our body is covered in small hairs.


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These help us to feel danger that might be too small to see — like bugs. People who are ticklish can feel bugs land on them, and flick them off before they bite. This helps to avoid getting bitten by poisonous insects.

Over the ages, ticklish people would have been less likely to be bitten by poisonous bugs, so they would have lived longer and had more babies, who were also ticklish. In other words, humans have evolved to be ticklish, because it can help us to sense danger, such as bugs. So it makes sense that we cannot tickle ourselves, so that we can be sure when dangerous things, such as bugs, are on us.

How to Treat a Throat Tickle

Good tickles feel good and can make us laugh. Did you know that when chimpanzees chase and tickle each other they make panting sounds? These pants do not mean that the chimp is tired — they actually mean that it wants to play! Laughter and play are good ways for animals including us! And if you could tickle yourself, you might be less likely to laugh and play with others.

tickle (verb) definition and synonyms | Macmillan Dictionary

So, there are good reasons why we can only be tickled by others, and not ourselves. The motor system is a thing that most animals — including humans — have in their body. Every time that you move, your brain sends a plan to your muscles. It does this by sending the plan, in the form of electrical signals, along the nerves that run like wires through your body. We have five senses: sight, smell, taste, touch and hearing. The plans sent to your muscles guess how each of these senses may change, after you have moved. So, when you try to tickle yourself, your brain sends the plan through the nerves: it tells the muscles in one arm to move to do the tickling, and it also tells your other muscles that the tickle is coming.