Somatosensation & Gargalesis – Konstantina Kilteni group

Try to tickle yourself. No matter how hard you try, the resulting sensation will always feel less ticklish and less intense compared to the sensation produced by somebody else tickling you. In our lab, we study how the human brain predicts the sensory stimuli that are generated by our actions and how this affects our perception.

Our research

Research line 1

How action affects somatosensation

Since the early 70s, several studies have shown that self-generated touch – as when touching our hand with the other – systematically feels less intense, less pleasant and less ticklish than touch generated by another person or machine. Computational theories of motor control suggest that this is because our brain predicts the sensory consequences of our actions using information from the motor command. For example, when we move to touch our hand with the other, our brain predicts how we will feel before completing the movement and use this prediction signal to suppress the expected sensations.

One of the main research goals in our lab is to understand better this somatosensory attenuation phenomenon: when does it occur and what spatial and temporal conditions need to be fulfilled?  How does the brain compute, maintain and update these predictions and what is their neurobiological basis? Are these predictions altered in clinical populations?

We use behavioral (psychophysics and kinematics), physiological (electromyography), computational and neuroimaging methods (functional magnetic resonance, magnetoencephalography) to address our questions.

Research line 2

What is the basic neuroscience of Gargalesis

Tickle is one of the most enigmatic human sensations: we do not know how a touch can turn into tickle, and why our brain responds to other people’s tickles but not to our own. To date, there is no theory that can satisfactorily explain why touch on certain body areas feels more ticklish than on others, and why some people are more prone to be tickled compared to others. Despite this fundamental knowledge gap, experiments on tickle perception have been extremely scarce.

We take a new interdisciplinary data-driven approach to understand the neuroscience of human tickle perception, based on modern haptic technology, somatosensory psychophysics,  physiology, kinematics, neuroimaging, and brain stimulation.


Selected publications

All publications from group members


  • Swedish Research Council (How action affects somatosensation)
  • European Research Council (What is the basic neuroscience of Gargalesis)


Staff and contact

Group leader

All members of the group

Visiting address

Neuroscience, Solnavägen 9, Solna, 17177, Sweden

Contact and visit us

Postal address

Motor control, somatosensory processing, and tickle perception – Konstantina Kilteni group
Department of Neuroscience
Karolinska Institutet, SE-171 77 Stockholm

Visiting address (visitors, couriers, etc.)

Motor control, somatosensory processing, and tickle perception – Konstantina Kilteni group, Biomedicum, 4D
Karolinska Institutet, Solnavägen 9, SE-171 65 Solna

Delivery address (goods, parcels, etc.)

Motor control, somatosensory processing, and tickle perception – Konstantina Kilteni group
Karolinska Institutet, Tomtebodavägen 16, SE-171 65 Solna

Karolinska Institutet, Biomedicum, Solnavägen 9