Why scratching brings relief

  1. Very interesting now I know why my itch moves when you scratch it.


    From correspondents in Chicago | February 01, 2008

    OH, it brings such blessed relief and now scientists can tell you why - scratching an itch temporarily shuts off areas in the brain linked with unpleasant feelings and memories.

    "Our study shows for the first time how scratching may relieve itch," said Gil Yosipovitch, a dermatologist at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Centre in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

    Prior studies have shown that pain, including vigorous scratching, inhibit the need to itch.

    Dr Yosipovitch and colleagues looked at what goes on in the brain when a person is scratched.

    He and colleagues used a technique known as functional magnetic resonance imaging to see which areas of the brain are active during scratching.

    They scratched 13 healthy people with a soft brush on the lower leg on and off in 30-second intervals for a total of five minutes.

    Scratching reduced activity in the anterior cingulate cortex and the posterior cingulate cortex - areas linked with pain aversion and memory.

    And the more intensely a person was scratched, the less activity they found in these areas of the brain.

    "It's possible that scratching may suppress the emotional components of itch and bring about relief," Dr Yosipovitch said.

    But they also found why one scratch often begets another.

    Scratching increased activity in the secondary somatosensory cortex, a pain centre, and in the prefrontal cortex, which is linked with compulsive behaviour.

    "This could explain the compulsion to continue scratching," Dr Yosipovitch said.

    The researchers said the study was limited because people were not scratching in response to an actual itch.

    But they said understanding what goes on in the brain may lend clues about how to treat people tormented by chronic itch, including people with eczema and many kidney dialysis patients.

    The study, which appears online in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology, was paid for by the National Institutes of Health.
  2. Interesting! My dermatologist actually sent me to a psychiatrist b/c she believed that the scratching was due to anxiety...and by scratching I was relieving some anxiety....
  3. Wow that's strange. My eczema is definitely worse when I'm stressed
  4. interesting :smile:
  5. what? I feel like I should be a med student to understand what is said. so why does it bring relief?
  6. hhhm..now i can do it more..:sweatdrop:
  7. sorry- I need to elaborate on my post. I was scratching because of anxiety/stress, unfortunately this did not bode well for my eczema:shrugs:, it makes it worse! Which is why my dermatologist sent me to a psychologist...who eventually prescribed some anti-anxiety pills (sorry...was that TMI?).