London, Feb 1 : Ever wondered why an uncontrollable scratch on your skin or hair brings such a relief? Well, the answer to this is with the researchers from Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Centre, North Carolina.
Th study, led by Dr Gil Yosipovitch, a dermatologist from Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Centre, North Carolina, found that scratching is linked to the suppression of unpleasant feelings.
In the study, the researchers used imaging technology to see what happens within the brain when we scratch, and why the sensation can feel pleasurable while it is damaging the skin.
"Our study shows for the first time how scratching may relieve an itch. It's important to understand the mechanism of relief so we can develop more effective treatments," the Telegraph quoted Yosipovitch, as saying.
The study recorded how the brains of 13 healthy patients responded to gentle scratching on the lower leg. The participants' responses were monitored with a magnetic resonance imaging scan that highlighted the areas of the brain affected.
The results showed that scratching makes the part of the brain associated with unpleasant feelings less active, bringing about the feeling of relief.
Yosipovitch said: "We know scratching is pleasurable, but we haven't known why. Scratching may suppress the emotional components of itch and bring about its relief. For example, drugs that deactivate this part of the brain might be effective."
The reduced brain activity occurred in the anterior cingulate cortex, associated with aversion to unpleasant sensory experiences, and the posterior cingulate cortex, associated with memory.
The study is published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology.