This chapter summarizes recent findings regarding the central transmission of acute and chronic itch. Itch is transduced by cutaneous pruriceptors that transmit signals to neurons in the superficial spinal cord. Spinal itch-signaling circuits utilize several neuropeptides whose receptors represent novel targets to block itch transmission. Itch is relieved by scratching, which activates spinal interneurons to inhibit itch-transmitting neurons. Spinal itch transmission is also thought to be modulated by descending pathways. Itch is transmitted rostrally via ascending pathways to activate a variety of brain regions involved in sensory discrimination of affective and motor responses to itch. The pathophysiological mechanisms of chronic itch are poorly understood but likely involve sensitization of itch-signaling pathways and/or dysfunction of itch-inhibitory circuits. Improved understanding of central itch mechanisms has identified a number of novel targets for the development of antipruritic treatment strategies.
ASJC Scopus subject areas