Aug 18, 2017

How the brain gets an itch

Credit: NICHD/S. Jeong

Scientists have traced how an "itch" in the body turns into a neural impulse to "scratch" it in the brain.

How they did it: Researchers at the Chinese Academy of Sciences suppressed parts of the spinal cords in mice in order to stop scratching behavior that had been triggered by an itch sensation. Then, using a light-based system able to trace the mice's neural circuitry, they followed the itch-to-scratch mechanism from the spinal cord to a part of the brainstem called the parabrachial nucleus that is involved in registering pain and other sensations.

Why it matters: Scientists would like to understand how to turn off the command to scratch an itch because it could lead to a treatment for chronic scratching that damages the skin.

Open questions, per Science News.

  • The parabrachial nucleus is thought to be the first stop for processing the itch— where does it go from there?
  • The study was done in mice — does the same mechanism hold in humans?
  • There are different itches, like those from an allergy. Are they processed the same way by the brain?

Go deeper

Judge rules all three defendants in shooting of Ahmaud Arbery will stand trial

Photo: Sean Rayford/Getty Images

A judge ruled on Thursday that all three men charged in the death of Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old black man who was shot and killed in February Glynn County, Georgia, will stand trial, AP reports.

Why it matters: The video of Arbery's death was among several catalysts in the mass protests against racial injustice that have unfurled across the country and world over the past week and a half.

Remembering George Floyd

Photo: Kerem Yucel/AFP via Getty Images

With politicians, clergy and law enforcement in attendance on Thursday in Minneapolis, the family of George Floyd demanded recognition for his life well lived.

Why it matters: Floyd has become the latest symbol of police brutality after he was killed last week when a police officer held a knee to his neck.

Al Sharpton says Floyd family will lead march on Washington in August

The family of George Floyd is teaming up with the Rev. Al Sharpton to hold a march on Washington on Aug. 28 — the 57th anniversary of the civil rights movement's March on Washington — to call for a federal policing equality act, Sharpton announced during a eulogy at Floyd's memorial service in Minneapolis Thursday.

Why it matters: The news comes amid growing momentum for calls to address systemic racism in policing and other facets of society, after more than a week of protests and social unrest following the killing of Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer.