Neural Mechanisms of Itch

Mark Lay, Xinzhong Dong

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Itch is a unique sensation that helps organisms scratch away external threats; scratching itself induces an immune response that can contribute to more itchiness. Itch is induced chemically in the peripheral nervous system via a wide array of receptors. Given the superficial localization of itch neuron terminals, cells that dwell close to the skin contribute significantly to itch. Certain mechanical stimuli mediated by recently discovered circuits also contribute to the itch sensation. Ultimately, in the spinal cord, and likely in the brain, circuits that mediate touch, pain, and itch engage in cross modulation. Much of itch perception is still a mystery, but we present in this review the known ligands and receptors associated with itch. We also describe experiments and findings from investigations into the spinal and supraspinal circuitry responsible for the sensation of itch.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)187-205
Number of pages19
JournalAnnual review of neuroscience
StatePublished - Jul 8 2020


  • DRG
  • brain
  • itch
  • pruritus
  • skin
  • spinal cord

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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