Are you itchy, or just neurotic?

JENNIFER LARUE HUGET
Last updated 11:02 20/11/2012
itchy
Photos.com
FEELING ITCHY YET?: The study found that itchiness was more 'contagious' than yawning or laughing.

Relevant offers

Well & Good

Pleasure is good: How French children are taught to eat well Top awards for beef and lamb dishes What place does meat have in a child's first 1000 days? Promoting meat for young diets Dr Libby: Find a balance between solitude and socialising Geoffrey Jackson the parkrun posterboy at 86 World-first gum disease vaccine developed My best trick for staying fit? Telling everyone I used to be fat Is it time to stop sleeping with your partner? Ten things to eat instead of ham and bacon – and why it matters Ask Dr Libby: How can I get more rest but still get things done?

You know how seeing someone scratching an itch makes you feel itchy, too? That's perfectly normal, a new study says - especially for those who tend to be on the neurotic side.

Research published online last week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences offered evidence of the neurotic basis of contagious itch. In the study, conducted by psychologists in Britain, 51 healthy adults watched videos of people either scratching parts of their upper bodies or merely tapping those areas with their fingers.

The participants reported whether they felt an urge to scratch - and, if so, how strong it was - when viewing each video. The volunteers also were videotaped as they watched, so the researchers could document how often they actually scratched themselves.

A big majority - 64 per cent - scratched themselves at least once while watching images of others scratching themselves. And while participants scratched themselves during both sets of videos, most of the scratching (59.5 per cent, or 132 scratches) took place while or just after people viewed a scratching video; 90 scratches occurred in association with the tapping videos. This indicates that itching may be more "socially contagious" than yawning (which 40 to 60 per cent of people will do when they see someone else yawn, other research has found) and laughing (47 per cent), the study notes.

MRI scans of participants' brains also revealed that seeing someone scratch triggers activity in the parts of the brain that are activated when a person has an itch.

Alas, it is apparently not empathy that makes us share the urge to scratch. It is neuroticism. People in the study whose personality profiles included a high degree of that trait were more likely than less neurotic participants to report feeling itchy when watching others scratch.

 

- Washington Post

Ad Feedback

Comments

Recipe search

Special offers
Opinion poll

Do you believe eating superfoods makes you healthier?

Yes, I feel so much better when I eat them.

No, it's all a con.

I don't know, I can't afford them.

Vote Result

Related story: (See story)

Featured Promotions

Sponsored Content