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

MTV's Rewinding The '90s With A New Channel

The '90s are back! Pokémon has taken over the world again. A Clinton is running for president. And now, MTV is reviving '90s favorites like Beavis and Butt-head on a new channel, MTV Classic.
NPR

Cookie Dough Blues: How E. Coli Is Sneaking Into Our Forbidden Snack

Most people know not to eat raw cookie dough. But now it's serious: 46 people have now been sickened with E. coli-tainted flour. Here's how contamination might be occurring.
WAMU 88.5

The Politics Hour – LIVE from Slim's Diner!

This special edition of the Politics Hour is coming to you live from Slim's Diner from Petworth in Northwest D.C.

NPR

Writing Data Onto Single Atoms, Scientists Store The Longest Text Yet

With atomic memory technology, little patterns of atoms can be arranged to represent English characters, fitting the content of more than a billion books onto the surface of a stamp.

Leave a Comment

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