I often get asked why we chose to call our venture ’Tikel.’

A1: Because I think [email protected] is a hilarious email address.

A2: Because the act of tickling someone is a simple analogy for what we’re doing with Tikel.

My 3-year-old niece, Emilia, is obsessed with tickling. “Kell! Kell! Come tee-ka me on the couch!” I hear this at least 5 times a day whenever I see her, and it is the best part of my day.

Have you ever wondered why you can’t tee-ka / tickle yourself?

Physiologically there’s no difference between me tickling Emilia and Emilia tickling herself. But only the former elicits a response.


Science doesn’t (really) have an answer, despite having been at the question since Aristotle.

According to one American neuroscientist, tickling is “one of the broadest and deepest subjects in science.” He suggests that tickling is rooted in how we neurologically comprehend the difference between ‘self’ and ‘other.’ You can’t tickle yourself because there is no ‘other’ in tickling yourself. (Interestingly schizophrenics can, in fact, tickle themselves.)

Another explanation comes from a German neuroscientist who compared brain responses during play and during tickling. He found that those responses were remarkably similar. His conclusion? That “ticklishness is a trick of the brain that rewards interacting and playing.” There’s no reward in tickling yourself, if the whole neurological point of tickling is to interact and play with others.

What a lovely (if not altogether conclusive) notion. That to tee-ka / tickle / Tikel is as much about ’other’ as it is about ‘self.’ That there is no reward without ‘other.’

That reward, if you’re Emilia and “Kell”? Nonstop giggles and big smiles and belly laughs. (Times 5, of course.)

Categories: Blog


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