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Papers of the Week

Papers: 18 May 2024 - 24 May 2024

2024 May 17

Sci Rep




Social interactions and olfactory cues are required for contagious itch in mice.


Shayan M, Haddadi NS, Shokrian Zeini M, Shokrian Zeini M, Tashak Golroudbari H, Afrooghe A, Ahmadi E, Rashki A, Dehpour AR


The phenomenon of contagious itch, observed in both humans and rodents, remains a topic of ongoing debate concerning its modulators and underlying pathways. This study delves into the relationship between contagious itch and familiar olfactory cues, a non-visual factor contributing to this intriguing behavior. Our findings showed that contagious itch in observer mice occurs during physical interaction with the cagemate itch-demonstrator but not with a stranger demonstrator or in a non-physical encounter condition. Notably, itch-experienced observer mice displayed an increased contagious itch behavior, highlighting the relevance of itch-associated memory in this phenomenon. Furthermore, anosmic observer mice, whether itch-naïve or itch-experienced, displayed no contagious itch behavior. These results demonstrate that the familiar olfactory cues, specifically cagemate body odors, are required for contagious itch behaviors in mice. In line with these behavioral findings, our study reveals increased activity in brain regions associated with olfaction, emotion, and memory during contagious itch, including the olfactory bulb, the amygdala, the hypothalamus, and the hippocampus, with this activity diminished in anosmic mice. In conclusion, our study unveils the critical role of familiar olfactory cues in driving contagious itch in mice, shedding light on the interplay between social factors, sensory perception, and memory in this phenomenon.