Although schizophrenia can strike at any age, most cases start between puberty and age 30. Schizophrenia can affect children, but this is unusual. As those who are more tactilely sensitive will know, there is a specific kind of belly-aching laughter that can only be produced by tickling. Even while a feather or a lover’s or parent’s playful fingers can cause such incapacitating spasms of uncontrollable laughter, most of us find it difficult to tickle ourselves to the same degree. But did you know that people with schizophrenia have the ability to tickle themselves?
Schizophrenic patients are conscious of their intentions but cannot connect the tickling sensation that results from movement with the fact that they caused the tickling in the first place. They might even create phantom tickling by themselves.
According to a recent study, people with schizophrenia-like symptoms may be better able to discern between their acts and those of others because key cognitive processes are disrupted.
The study, published in the journal Consciousness and Cognition, expands on earlier research showing that individuals with schizophrenia are more sensitive to self-produced tactile stimulation. Current explanations for why this is the case rely on a forward model of cognition, in which the brain can foresee the sensory results of an individual’s activities.
These results are subsequently processed with less force than sensations produced externally, ensuring that unexpected stimuli are given more weight than those that result from our actions.
This has several adaptive benefits, preventing us from being startled whenever we touch a region of our body, like when someone suddenly grabs us. As a result, we continue to pay attention to environmental cues.
However, it is believed that schizophrenia impairs this process, so patients with the illness frequently confuse their own volition with that of an outside force.
Internal ideas, for instance, can be seen as an external voice speaking to you. Thus, the sense of not having control over one’s own life and the perception of being controlled by other people or forces are prominent features of severe schizophrenia.
Researchers assumed that those with schizophrenic-like symptoms would be more likely to be able to tickle themselves than those lacking these symptoms because of this inability to discriminate self-generated impulses from those of others. They enlisted non-schizophrenic volunteers to try this, and afterward, they were examined to ascertain their schizotypal features. (Source: IFL Science)
What is Schizotypy?
Schizotypy is a term used to describe a group of personality traits that, to varying degrees, are present in people who do not have schizophrenia. One of these is a passivity experience, which the researchers define as feeling like you were a robot or zombie without a will.
Participants filled out a questionnaire to gauge the intensity of their schizotypal features, after which the researchers tickled them with a feather before asking them to tickle themselves.
Participants rated the experience’s severity after being tickled, indicating how uncomfortable they found it to be. According to the results, the self-tickling exercise was more ticklish for those with more substantial schizotypal features than for those with weaker levels. When the researchers tickled the two groups, they both became very precarious.
In light of these findings, the study’s authors concluded that individuals who exhibited more schizophrenic-like traits had less efficient predictive mechanisms and were less able to predict the sensory consequences of their actions, which may be a sign of a more general inability to differentiate between self-produced and externally-produced sensations. (Source: IFL Science)
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