Spinal Circuits Transmitting Mechanical Pain and Itch

Neurosci Bull. 2018 Feb;34(1):186-193. doi: 10.1007/s12264-017-0136-z. Epub 2017 May 8.


In 1905, Henry Head first suggested that transmission of pain-related protopathic information can be negatively modulated by inputs from afferents sensing innocuous touch and temperature. In 1965, Melzak and Wall proposed a more concrete gate control theory of pain that highlights the interaction between unmyelinated C fibers and myelinated A fibers in pain transmission. Here we review the current understanding of the spinal microcircuits transmitting and gating mechanical pain or itch. We also discuss how disruption of the gate control could cause pain or itch evoked by innocuous mechanical stimuli, a hallmark symptom for many chronic pain or itch patients.

Keywords: Gate control; Itch; Pain; Spinal cord.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Nerve Net / pathology*
  • Nerve Net / physiopathology
  • Pain / pathology*
  • Pruritus / pathology*
  • Spinal Cord / pathology*
  • Synaptic Transmission / physiology*