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Papers of the Week

Papers: 17 Dec 2022 - 23 Dec 2022

2022 Dec 17

Neurosci Bull

An Anterior Cingulate Cortex-to-Midbrain Projection Controls Chronic Itch in Mice.


Zhang T-T, Guo S-S, Wang H-Y, Jing Q, Yi X, Hu Z-H, Yu X-R, Xu T-L, Liu M-G, Zhao X
Neurosci Bull. 2022 Dec 17.
PMID: 36528690.


Itch is an unpleasant sensation that provokes the desire to scratch. While acute itch serves as a protective system to warn the body of external irritating agents, chronic itch is a debilitating but poorly-treated clinical disease leading to repetitive scratching and skin lesions. However, the neural mechanisms underlying the pathophysiology of chronic itch remain mysterious. Here, we identified a cell type-dependent role of the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) in controlling chronic itch-related excessive scratching behaviors in mice. Moreover, we delineated a neural circuit originating from excitatory neurons of the ACC to the ventral tegmental area (VTA) that was critically involved in chronic itch. Furthermore, we demonstrate that the ACC→VTA circuit also selectively modulated histaminergic acute itch. Finally, the ACC neurons were shown to predominantly innervate the non-dopaminergic neurons of the VTA. Taken together, our findings uncover a cortex-midbrain circuit for chronic itch-evoked scratching behaviors and shed novel insights on therapeutic intervention.