NPR : News

Filed Under:

Scratching An Ankle Is Hard To Beat

There are few more sybaritic pleasures than scratching an itch.

But according to a study just out in the British Journal of Dermatology, the intensity of the scratching delight varies with the location of the itch.

The research team was lead by Gil Yosipovitch, a man described as the "Godfather of itch." He and his colleagues at Wake Forest School of Medicine recruited 18 brave souls to take part in their study.

To induce itch, the researchers rubbed their subjects' skin with approximately 40 cowhage spicules. Just in case you're not familiar with cowhage spicules, they are tiny threads taken from a tropical legume.

OK, that's not really very helpful. Just take it on faith that when applied to a human's skin, cowhage spicules reliably induce intense itching.

Subjects didn't get to scratch their own itch. That would induce too much variability into the experimental design. Instead, the researchers rubbed their subjects' spicule-induced itches with a Medi-Pak 7-inch cytology brush (item #24–2199, General Medical Corp., Elkridge, Md.).

Probably not as satisfying as scratching with a nice sharp fingernail, but more reproducible.

The researchers tested the itch-scratch response at three sites: back, forearm and ankle. Turns out scratching the ankle produced a more pleasurable itch relief than the other two locations.

Now before you shake your head in wonderment that the researchers chose the back, ankle and forearm to make their measurements, be reassured that this is just the start. "Future studies," they write, "could also examine the scratching pleasurability associated with other itchy areas such as the scalp or the anogenital region." OK.

Whatever else they learn, the Wake Forest researchers have proven one thing: every itch has its niche.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

Barbershop: UofL Basketball Ban, Football Concussions And The NFL Women's Summit

ESPN contributor Kevin Blackistone, Bloomberg View's Kavitha Davidson and The Washington Post's Wesley Lowery talk about the UofL basketball team, public opinion of the NFL, and women in sports.
NPR

After Introducing Changes, Keurig Sales Continue To Fall

Despite America's high coffee consumption, Keurig reported disappointing sales this week. Even during its popular holiday selling period, the numbers haven't perked up in recent years.
NPR

On The Clock: Rubio Gets The Most Talking Time In Tonight's Debate

It was the last debate before the New Hampshire primary and Donald Trump was back onstage. Which GOP candidate ended up with the most talking time?
NPR

How Limited Internet Access Can Subtract From Kids' Education

Smartphones are often credited with helping bridge the "digital divide" between people who do and don't have Internet access at home. But is mobile Internet enough for a family with a kid in school?

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.