science | November 06, 2012

Why Can't We Tickle Ourselves? Neuroscience Speaker David Eagleman

David Eagleman is a renowned neuroscience speaker who delves into the secrets of the brain to help explain our motivations, and to answer pressing scientific questions. Like...why we can't tickle ourselves? While it may seem like a silly question, Eagleman's answer, quoted in a recent blog post, reveals a great deal about the inner workings of the mind. "Because your brain is always predicting your own actions, and how your body will feel as a result," Eagleman says, "you cannot tickle yourself." "Other people can tickle you because they can surprise you. You can’t predict what their tickling actions will be." The same logic can be applied to riding a bicycle, says the bestselling author of Incognito. Once you've learned how to ride, your brain automatically predicts and adjusts to the movements and balance necessary to stay on course. "You only have to think consciously about cycling if something changes — like if there’s a strong wind or you get a flat [tire]," he writes. "When something unexpected happens like this, your brain is forced to change its predictions about what will happen next. If it does its job well, you’ll adjust to the strong wind, leaning your body so you don’t fall."

Eagleman's groundbreaking neuroscience research is wide in both scope and implication—from dropping people off of a tower to simulate near-death experiences to studying Synesthesia to making connections between brain science and our justice system. While there is much we still don't know about the brain, neuroscientists like Eagleman are making new discoveries that can help us better understand ourselves.