Itch mechanisms and circuits

Annu Rev Biophys. 2014;43:331-55. doi: 10.1146/annurev-biophys-051013-022826.


The itch-scratch reflex serves as a protective mechanism in everyday life. However, chronic persistent itching can be devastating. Despite the clinical importance of the itch sensation, its mechanism remains elusive. In the past decade, substantial progress has been made to uncover the mystery of itching. Here, we review the molecules, cells, and circuits known to mediate the itch sensation, which, coupled with advances in understanding the pathophysiology of chronic itching conditions, will hopefully contribute to the development of new anti-itch therapies.

Keywords: itch; neural circuits; neurons; pain; pruritus; sensitization.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Neural Pathways*
  • Pain / physiopathology
  • Pruritus / drug therapy
  • Pruritus / physiopathology*
  • Synaptic Transmission