The Daily Curio
Curio #503 - Scratching that itch
A curious fact for November 18, 2014 from Justin Kitch, Curious CEO
Mom was right. Scratching an itch really does make it worse. Researchers have found that scratching itches triggers unintended effects in our bodies. The scratching causes mild pain signals to be sent to our brains, which in turn release serotonin to help soothe. But since itch and pain signals are transmitted through similar neural pathways in the body, the serotonin can jump "off track" as it spreads from the brain into the spinal cord, actually intensifying the itch. To prove this, scientists engineered mice incapable of producing serotonin, and injected them with an itch-inducing chemical. They exhibited significantly less scratching than the control group. For people with chronic itching, this is an exciting finding. But unfortunately, since serotonin is crucial for mood regulation and bone metabolism, blocking it is unlikely to be a practical therapy. You could always try my four-year-old's solution for bug bites: scratch them until they bleed and then ask for a Hello Kitty band aid, which makes it all better.