46 Scopus citations


Itch is a distinct aversive sensation that elicits a strong urge to scratch. Despite recent advances in our understanding of the peripheral basis of itch, we know very little regarding how central neural circuits modulate acute and chronic itch processing. Here we establish the causal contributions of defined periaqueductal gray (PAG) neuronal populations in itch modulation in mice. Chemogenetic manipulations demonstrate bidirectional modulation of scratching by neurons in the PAG. Fiber photometry studies show that activity of GABAergic and glutamatergic neurons in the PAG is modulated in an opposing manner during chloroquine-evoked scratching. Furthermore, activation of PAG GABAergic neurons or inhibition of glutamatergic neurons resulted in attenuation of scratching in both acute and chronic pruritis. Surprisingly, PAG GABAergic neurons, but not glutamatergic neurons, may encode the aversive component of itch. Thus, the PAG represents a neuromodulatory hub that regulates both the sensory and affective aspects of acute and chronic itch.

Original languageEnglish
Article number4356
JournalNature communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2019


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