Have an Itch? It's All In Your Spine

Urge to scratch comes from back not brain, researchers find
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 6, 2009 1:26 PM CDT
Have an Itch? It's All In Your Spine
The sensation of itching, and the sensation of relief after scratching, seems to come from the spine.   (Shutterstock)

Scratching an itch may be an everyday activity, but it’s also a longstanding conundrum to scientists who have never been sure if the urge originated in the skin or the brain. Until now. A new study from University of Minnesota neuroscientists appears to show that both the itch, and the relief scratching provides, come from specialized cells in the spinal cord, the New York Times reports.

“It’s as if there’s a little brain in there that creates this state in which scratching—which normally excites pain cells—instead inhibits them,” says a study co-author. The researchers injected monkeys with histamines, and immediately saw their spinothalamic neurons begin firing. When they scratched the itchy skin, that activity stopped. “It’s the first time I’ve ever seen a noxious stimulus—the scratching—stop the firing of cells.” (Read more itch stories.)

We use cookies. By Clicking "OK" or any content on this site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. Read more in our privacy policy.
Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.