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Leibniz Lecture – Prof. Dr. Michael Brecht

(19.02.18) How do mammalian brains react to social touch such as tickling? Are these reactions gender-specific? Such questions are considered by the renowned neurobiologist Prof. Dr. Michael Brecht, whose pioneering work in the field of neuronal bases of behaviour was awarded the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) in 2012. Prof. Dr. Brecht is a professor at the Bernstein Center for Computational Neuroscience at the Humboldt University, Berlin, and in April he will give two Leibniz lectures in Brazil, presenting his work to a wider audience in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. The event in São Paulo will take place on 24 April at 3 p.m at the premises of FAPESP, one of the DFG’s partner organisations at state level. The second lecture, in Rio de Janeiro, is planned for 26 April at 6 p.m., at the research institute Instituto D’Or. Both events will be held in English.

Prof. Dr. Michael Brecht

Prof. Dr. Michael Brecht

© DFG / David Ausserhofer

The cerebral cortex is the largest brain structure in mammals. One part of it is the so-called somatosensory cortex, which is responsible for the central processing of sensory stimuli such as touch, pressure, vibration and temperature. While there are already comprehensive research findings regarding brain reactions to experimenter-imposed, controlled touch, only little is known so far about reactions to natural stimuli, for example in social interactions between members of the same species. This includes tickling, which Brecht uses as a model for his research on rats. The investigations show that the animals' ticklishness is mood-dependent – in a pleasant environment they enjoy being tickled. The somatosensory cortex seems to have an important control function that coordinates ticklishness and playful behaviour among animals of the same species.

Sex, Touch & Tickle – Neurobiological aspects of physical touch

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