Scratching help relieves itchiness by blocking activity in certain spinal cord nerve cells that transmit sensation to the brain, say University of Minnesota researchers.
The findings from their work in primates could help in efforts to develop the first effective ways to relieve chronic itch, said study author Dr. Glenn Giesler. But he added that more research is needed to learn about the chemistry involved in process, BBC News reported.
The study was published in the journal Nature Neuroscience.
This is a "potentially significant" discovery, said itching expert Gil Yosipovitch, a professor at Wake Forest University in North Carolina, BBC News reported.
"Although there is a long way to go, methods that can induce a pleasurable scratch sensation without damaging the skin, via mechanical stimuli or drugs that can inhibit these neurons, could be developed to treat chronic itch," Yosipovitch said.