To scratch an itch is scratch many itches placing nails to skin brings sweet yet short lived relief because it often instigates another bout of itchiness. The unexpected culprit behind this vicious cycle new research reveals is serotonin the so called happiness hormone.
Scientists thought an itch was merely a mild form of pain until 2009 when Zhou Feng Chen and his colleagues at the Centre for the Study of Itch at Washington University in St Lousis discovered itch specific neurons in mice.
Though not identical itch and pain are closely related; they share the same path ways in certain brain areas. Because of the doubling up activating one suppresses the other which is why scratching blocks the itching sensation momentarily. A recent work by Chen’s group showed that it exacerbates the itch scratch cycle.
Itch sensing neurons have a set of receptors that facilitates pain relief and another that induces an itch. Serotonin can bind only to the pain related receptor but because the two sets sit close to each other and physically interact the chemical’s arrival indirectly enhances the itch pathway.
When Chen and his colleagues activated both receptors simultaneously in mice the rodents scratched much more than if the itch inducing receptor was turned on alone. And mice lacking the cells that produce serotonin scratched less than normal mice. The findings were published in the journal Neuron.
Scientists havae yet to locate itch specific neurons in humans. For now it is safe to say think twice before you twitch to the itch.
Courtesy Deccan Chronicle