Imaging of central itch modulation in the human brain using positron emission tomography

Hideki Mochizuki, Manabu Tashiro, Michiko Kano, Yumiko Sakurada, Masatoshi Itoh, Kazuhiko Yanai

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190 Citations (Scopus)


The unpleasantness of itching is reduced by cooling. Although previous research suggests the presence of a central itch modulation system, there is little documentation about the modulation system in the brain. In the present study, we investigated the modulating system of the itching sensation in human brains using positron emission tomography and H2 15O. The significant increases of regional cerebral blood flow caused by histamine stimuli using iontophoresis were observed in the anterior cingulate cortex (BA24), the thalamus, the parietal cortex (BA40 and BA7), the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (BA46) and the premotor cortex (BA6). We did not observe any changes in the secondary somatosensory cortex (S2) during the itching stimulus, corresponding to the previous imaging studies concerning itching. Activation in these areas related to itching stimuli was decreased by a simultaneous stimulation of itching and cold pain (the dual stimuli), as compared to itching alone. Interestingly, the midbrain, including periaqueductal gray matter (PAG), was only activated during the dual stimuli. PAG is well known to be a modulating noxious stimulus. Here we hypothesize that the activation of PAG may also be related to the itch modulation. These findings indicate that the modified brain activities in the PAG, the cingulate, the frontal and the parietal cortex might be associated with the itch modulation in the central nervous system and that the S2 might not be primarily involved in processing the itching perception in the brain since the activity of S2 was not observed in any concentration of itching stimuli.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)339-346
Number of pages8
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - 2003 Sept


  • Histamine
  • Itch modulation
  • Periaqueductal gray matter
  • Positron emission tomography
  • Secondary somatosensory cortex


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