The worst thing about itching is that you never know when you will suddenly get a violent urge to scratch. Sometimes, it's awkward. For example, there's a time and there's a place, and while you are at a job interview or on a hot date is not the time, especially if the itch is on a taboo part of your body.
A group of British scientists decided to address this problem.
In a joint effort with the University of Hull, scientists at the University of Sussex have been looking into the reasons for scratching, says a report in The Argus.
"Why do we catch the urge to scratch?" by Peter Truman.
These were the questions they set themselves to address:
· Why do we do it?
· Why are some people more prone to scratching than others?
· Also, is it contagious? In other words, why do we feel the need to scratch when we see others scratching?
A psychology lecturer, Dr. Henning Holle, together with researchers from the University of Sussex and Brighton and the Sussex Medical School, asked volunteers to complete questionnaires about their itchy experiences. To assess why scratching is contagious, they also arranged for videos to be shown of people scratching their arms and chests. The reactions of the volunteers were watched and recorded.
The Results of the Brit Itch Tests
· Two thirds of the volunteers needed to scratch while watching the people scratching on the video.
· Some people were more susceptible than others, especially those who were experiencing negative emotions.
· When activity in the brain was measured against the scratching, certain regions were found to be part of the "itch matrix."
These results could prove helpful for people who have severe itching without any apparent cause.
Scratching Caused by Neuroticism
Dr. Holle explains in his Own Words: "Almost everyone has felt that urge to scratch when watching someone else, but no one has ever really known why. It had previously been thought that empathy was responsible. But we found that neuroticism - a measure of the tendency to experience negative emotions - was positively linked to the contagious itch. Highly neurotic people are known to be highly emotionally reactive and vulnerable to stress. We found that participants with higher neuroticism scores are also the ones that are most easily infected."
So - what makes you itch? And more important, why?
· Truman, Peter, "Why do we catch the urge to scratch?" The Argus,November 15, 2012.