Knights of the Pain Table

A Camelot for Sufferers of Chronic Pain

Pain and Itch Signals Travel Through Separate Pathways in the Nervous System

Pain and Itch Signals

In the July, 2011 issue of Scientific American, Anna Kuchment interviews Zhou-Feng Chen, the Director of the Center for the Study of Itch at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Mo. Apparently approximately 17% of adults may suffer from chronic itch.

At the Washington University School of Medicine they are trying to determine how the nervous system transmits the itch signal. It has been held as a popular belief that itch and pain were transmitted through the same pathway. However, Zhou-Feng Chen and his colleagues discovered, 3 years ago, a subset of neurons in mouse spinal cords through which all itch sensations pass.

Through research we now know that itch signals are transmitted through separate pathways and that they antagonize pain signals.  This knowledge now offers the possibility of being able to block that particular molecular signaling pathway.

One fascinating feature that has been discovered is the biological functions of pain and itch are different. If you feel pain, you will tend to withdraw to protect yourself, but if you feel an itch, you will move your hands toward it to relieve the itch.

Zhou-Feng Chen and the researchers have still many unanswered questions. What causes the itch sensation initially? How does this information flow in the body and how do different kinds of diseases (such as psoriasis or kidney failure) activate the itch receptor?

We look forward to discovering the secrets of the of the itch.

Lady Sharon
Scribe of Camelot

Source: Scientific American

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2 Responses to “Pain and Itch Signals Travel Through Separate Pathways in the Nervous System”

  1. Michelle says:

    THat’s interesting.

    I have fibromyalgia (they think… thought… unsure) and severe endometriosis. Now last few months been battling a new issue of carpel tunnel type pain, but not sure why/what on this pain either!

    Thing is… last two weeks I’ve had itchy hands as well as painful ones.

    the not being able to use hands is driving me a bit crazy. I can type for about… well this above, before pain gets too much and have to stop. 🙁

  2. Lady Sharon says:

    Dear Michelle,

    I am saddened to know thou hast to fight so many battles upon the battlefield of life. Pain is a difficult companion. I bow to thy strength.

    I did find the relationship between pain and itch signals quite fascinating also. The brain is very complex and we have much to learn.

    Carpel Tunnel can be quite painful and unfortunately quite disabling. I pray that with time your pain improves to give you the freedom that you deserve.

    I thank thee for sharing your thoughts. I was very impressed by your beautiful Kingdom at and encourage other Knights to ride by for a warm visit.

    May Phoebus shine with serenity as the night falls.

    Lady Sharon