Our biggest problem at the onset was convincing suitable males that the Competitive Endurance Tickling activities in which they were about to participate were anything and "everything" but gay.
Why can’t we tickle ourselves while schizophrenics can?
Have you ever tried to tickle yourself? Try it; you will find that the feeling will be nothing like the sensation you get when someone else tickles you. But why is this the case?
in order to differentiate between spontaneous environmental changes and those we cause ourselves, the brain categorizes self-produced movements as being less significant than those initiated external to our bodies. Indeed, fMRI scans have identified increased activity in the somatosensory cortex in response to externally produced tickling (as used in the above study) compared to little or no change in activity seen when participants tickle themselves. This data suggests that activity in the brain differs in response to externally and internally produced stimuli, reinforcing the neurological basis for our ability to consciously distinguish between the two.
However, research has now stumbled upon a remarkable feature of schizophrenia showing that, unlike the rest of us, schizophrenics actually have the capacity to tickle themselves! It has been suggested that this phenomenon may be a caused by neurological changes in the schizophrenic brain which disable the patient’s ability to detect self-initiated actions. It is possible that biochemical or structural changes in the brain cause a malfunction in the predictive system of the cerebellum. This results in a miscommunication of information concerning internally- vs. externally-generated actions. Essentially this means that, although the patient is able to process the intent to move and is aware the movement has occurred, they cannot then link the resulting sensation (the tickle) with their internal knowledge of making the movement. It is therefore possible that this deficit in self-awareness or monitoring could result in thoughts or actions becoming isolated from the internal appreciation that they are producing them. Consequently, schizophrenic patients may misinterpret internally-generated thoughts and movements as external changes in the environment. ...
... When the robot pushed on the fingers of schizophrenics they were much better at pushing back on themselves with the same amount of force the robot had applied. Their brains didn’t discount the consequences of their own actions as much as the brains of healthy subjects did.
But the tale of the tit-for-tat experiment doesn’t end there. This past year, Wolpert, now working at Cambridge with another group of researchers, ran the tit-for-tat study a third time. Thirty healthy subjects were recruited. They played the game against themselves and completed a short survey designed to gauge delusional thoughts. The survey asked questions like, “Do you ever feel as if you have been chosen by God in some way? and “Are you often worried that your partner may be unfaithful?”—questions that, on their own, are endorsed by about one in four people.
Wolpert and his colleagues compared the survey results to subjects' tit-for-tat performance. They found that delusional thinkers, just like schizophrenics, were better at playing tit-for-tat by the rules—they were better at pushing back on themselves with the same amount of force the robot applied. A reduced ability to discount the sensory consequences of self-generated actions was not just a consequence of schizophrenia—it seemed to be, more generally, a characteristic of deluded thinkers. ...
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