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All itches not created equal -- Different parts of brain activated depending on cause

(BETHESDA, MD) -- Intense itching and the urge to scratch are symptoms of many chronic skin ailments. A new study conducted by Oxford University researchers has found that different reactions in the brain to two common allergy triggers -- allergens (pollen and dust) and histamine (allergy cells within the body caused by foods, drugs or infection) -- may shed some light on the itch-scratch cycle.

The Study

The study is entitled Itch and Motivation to Scratch: An Investigation of the Central and Peripheral Correlates of Allergen- and Histamine-Induced Itch in Humans. The research team was comprised of Siri G. Leknes, Susanna Bantick, Richard G. Wise and Irene Tracey, all of the Department of Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics, Oxford University, Oxford, UK and Centre for Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging of the Brain (FMRIB), Clinical Neurology, Oxford University, Oxford, UK; and Carolyn M. Willis and John D. Wilkinson, both of the Department of Dermatology, Amersham Hospital, Amersham, UK.

The results of the study are published in the online edition of the Journal of Neurophysiology (http://jn.physiology.org/). The journal is one of the 14 scientific publications published by the American Physiological Society (APS) (www.The-APS.org) every month.

Methodology Overview Laser Doppler Study

Twenty eight female volunteers were recruited for the study, of which 14 tested positive (atopic cohort) for type I allergens (grass pollen and/or house dust mite) and 14 did not (non-atopic cohort). Over three consecutive days the atopic cohort was challenged with either their specific allergen or histamine, along with the saline control group, by applying a skin prick to the forearm. Non-atopic subjects were challenged with histamine and saline on two consecutive days.

The subjects rated itch intensity continuously on a
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Contact: Donna Krupa
dkrupa@the-aps.org
301-634-7209
American Physiological Society
6-Dec-2006


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