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Front Med (Lausanne)


Affective Touch Reduces Electrically Induced Itch Experience.


Meijer LL, Schielen ZA, van Ree KY, Dijkerman CH
Front Med (Lausanne). 2021; 8:628020.
PMID: 33659264.


Itch is a common symptom in dermatologic and other diseases and can have a severe impact on quality of life and mental health. As a proportion of patients with itch-symptoms is resistant to commonly used anti-histamine treatments, development of new treatments is desirable. Past research on pain, itch and affective touch (i.e. slow, gentle stroking of the skin activating C-tactile fibers) revealed an inhibitory relationship between affective touch and pain and between pain and itch. Given the overlap in neural processing between these three sensory submodalities, a possible interaction between affective touch and itch might be expected. This study investigated whether there is a relationship between itch and affective touch, and if so, whether affective touch inhibits itch. Itch was electrically induced with the use of electrodes that were placed at the ventral side of the wrist of 61 participants. A within-subject design was conducted with two conditions. An experimental -affective touch- condition (stroking the forearm with a soft brush at 3 cm/s) and a control -non-affective touch- condition (stroking the forearm with a soft brush at 18 cm/s). Touch was applied on the dorsal side of the forearm, the same arm as were the electrodes were placed. For each condition itch was induced for 20 min, with every 2 min a VAS-scale measurement of the level of experienced itch. Both types of touch reduced the experienced itch compared to baseline ( < 0.01, partial η = 0.67). However, affective touch had an additional significant relieving effect compared to non-affective touch ( = 0.03, partial η= 0.08). The alleviation of itch started after 2 min of stroking and continued to increase up till 6 min, where after the relieving effect stabilized but still persisted. This finding suggest that affective touch, as with acute pain, has a relieving effect on electrically induced itch.