Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Brain & Nervous System Health Center

Font Size

Scratch Skin, Soothe Brain?

Scratching May Ease Emotions Triggered by Itching, but It's Still Not Good for Skin
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Jan. 31, 2008 -- Scratching isn't great for your skin, but new research shows why it feels good.

"To our surprise, we found that areas of the brain associated with unpleasant or aversive emotions and memories became significantly less active during the scratching," Wake Forest University's Gil Yosipovitch, MD, says in a news release.

"Of course, scratching is not recommended because it can damage the skin. But understanding how the process works could lead to new treatments," adds Yosipovitch.

Yosipovitch and colleagues studied 13 healthy adults (average age: 28). Participants weren't itchy, but they got their lower right leg gently scratched by a researcher wielding a medical brush.

Participants got brain scans before, during, and after the scratching sessions. Those brain scans showed that certain brain areas were particularly active during scratching, while other brain regions became less active during scratching.

Those patterns may explain why scratching can feel good and be rewarding, the researchers note. But it will take more work to see if the brain behaves the same way in people dealing with itchiness (pruritus).

Their findings appear in today's advance online edition of the Journal of Investigative Dermatology.

Today on WebMD

nerve damage
Learn how this disease affects the nervous system.
senior woman with lost expression
Know the early warning signs.
woman in art gallery
Tips to stay smart, sharp, and focused.
medical marijuana plant
What is it used for?
senior man
boy hits soccer ball with head
red and white swirl
marijuana plant
brain illustration stroke
nerve damage
Alzheimers Overview
Graphic of number filled head and dna double helix