Monday, April 06, 2009

Scratching To Stop an Itch

We all know scratching helps relieves itchiness, but do we actually know why it does that? The physiological mechanisms for how this works are little understood until now. Researchers have discovered that scratching helps relieve an itch by blocking some activity in the spinal cord nerve cells that transmit the sensation to the brain. But this effect only seems to occur during itch itself, scratching at other times makes no difference at all.

Research has suggested that a specific part of the spinal cord, the spinothalamic tract plays a key role as nerve cells in this area have been shown to be more active when itchy substances are applied to the skin. Scratching the skin blocks activity of nerve cells in the spinothalamic tract during itchiness - preventing the spinal cord from transmitting signals from the scratched area of skin to the brain as scientist hopes the work could lead to ways to relieve chronic itch effectively for the first time



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