A study by Dr. Yosipovitch at Wake Forest University used functional MRIs to examine the effects on the brain of scratching an itch. Scratching decreased activity in the anterior cingulate cortex and in the posterior cingulate cortex. These areas are associated with pain aversion and memory. According to the study, an increase in scratching led to a decrease of activity in these areas of the brain.
“It’s possible that scratching may suppress the emotional components of itch and bring about relief,” Yosipovitch said.
Well, plenty of my patients must be emotionally suppressed these days — with winter itch in full effect, plenty of them are scratching.