Intended for healthcare professionals



BMJ 2009; 338 doi: (Published 15 April 2009) Cite this as: BMJ 2009;338:b1536

Scratching an itch can be intensely satisfying, and the itchiness itself may bring about a specific state in the spinal cord that allows scratching to reduce the neuronal activity that transmits the sensation of itch up to the brain (Nature Neuroscience 2009; published online 6 April, doi:10.1038/nn.2292). The part of the spinal cord known to be involved with itch is the spinothalamic tract, and research shows that the neurons of this tract are more active when itchy substances are applied to the skin. This latest work shows that scratching the skin of primates blocks the activity of spinothalamic neurons at times of itchiness, but not when they’re not itchy.

A new approach to screening for retinopathy of prematurity could do away with expensive and stressful eye examinations (Pediatrics 2009;123:e638-e645 doi:10.1542/peds.2008-2697). A combination of weight, insulin-like growth factor, and the use of an algorithm for neonatal retinopathy of prematurity correctly identified all babies who developed retinopathy of prematurity needing treatment, and most of those who did not need treatment. The alarm is triggered when the rate of …

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