Remember when you were a kid and you got bitten by insects or worse, you got the measles, mumps or chicken pox or some other childhood pox that made your skin break out and itch like crazy? Remember how your mom would always say, "Don't scratch, you'll make it worse!" But as soon as you were out of her sight, you'd scratch and scratch until you got that "ahhh" feeling of relief.
But it turns out your mom was right, even if she didn't know why. Scientists have discovered that the neurochemical serotonin is probably responsible for the itch-scratch cycle. It works like this: when you scratch an itch, it actually causes you a small amount of pain, which is a distraction that numbs your brain to the itch sensation. Meanwhile, that little bit of pain triggers the release of serotonin in your brain. Now here's the interesting Thing: serotonin dulls pain, but it also helps carry the itch signal to the brain. So when the pain of the scratch dies away, the itch comes back with a vengeance. And so on and so on.
Researchers figured out how to interrupt the itchy nerve cells that react to serotonin, so it's possible that their work could lead to some relief in the future. Meanwhile, we just have to keep scratching!
See you next week,