Athens Review, Athens, Texas

Community News Network

March 28, 2014

Do animals have a sense of humor?

(Continued)

He seems to be onto something. While tickling isn't always pleasant — thus the term "tickle torture" — in multiple experiments Burgdorf has demonstrated the rats' 50 kilohertz chirping is only associated with positive experiences. For example, the rats only made this sound during rough and tumble play when the animals were of similar size. The vocalizations changed when one of the animals involved was much larger than the other, when it was no longer fun and games and instead looked more like bullying. And when given a choice, Burgdorf's rats would push a bar to play a recording of the 50 kilohertz chirp as opposed to other rat noises, suggesting they had a preference for the sound. Finally, when Burgdorf and his colleagues used electrodes, opiates, and other manipulations to stimulate the reward centers of rats' brains, the rats produced that same laughter-like noise.

Whether you call it laughter or not, Burgdorf is convinced these rats' ultrasonic noises signal they're experiencing happiness. Hence the "laughing pill" experiment: He and his colleagues are testing a new antidepressant medication on rats, to see if it makes them "laugh," or chirp happily. If all goes well, Burgdorf believes the resulting medication could eventually be approved for humans. Rats, so often seen as a malicious pest, could end up making the world a happier place.

---

This series is adapted from "The Humor Code: A Global Search for What Makes Things Funny": http://amzn.to/1h0IJvqMcGraw is a professor at the University of Colorado, Boulder. Warner is a former Westword staff writer.

Text Only
Community News Network
Biz Marquee
AP Video
Raw: Corruption Trial Begins for Former Va Gov. The Carbon Trap: US Exports Global Warming UN Security Council Calls for Gaza Cease-fire Traditional African Dishes Teach Healthy Eating 13 Struck by Lightning on Calif. Beach Baseball Hall of Famers Inducted Israel, Hamas Trade Fire Despite Truce in Gaza Italy's Nibali Set to Win First Tour De France Raw: Shipwrecked Concordia Completes Last Voyage Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge From Nest Raw: Massive Dust Storm Covers Phoenix 12-hour Cease-fire in Gaza Fighting Begins Raw: Bolivian Dancers Attempt to Break Record Raw: Israel, Palestine Supporters Rally in US Raw: Air Algerie Flight 5017 Wreckage Virginia Governor Tours Tornado Aftermath Judge Faces Heat Over Offer to Help Migrant Kids Kangaroo Goes Missing in Oklahoma More M17 Bodies Return, Sanctions on Russia Grow Raw: Deadly Tornado Hits Virginia Campground