Functional neuroimaging studies have identified itch-related brain regions. However, no study has investigated the temporal aspect of itch-related brain processing. Here this issue was investigated using electrically evoked itch in ten healthy adults. Itch stimuli were applied to the left wrist and brain activity was measured using magnetoencephalography (MEG) and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). In the MEG experiment, the magnetic responses evoked by the itch stimuli were observed in the contralateral and ipsilateral frontotemporal regions. The dipoles associated with the magnetic responses were mainly located in the contralateral (nine subjects) and ipsilateral (eight subjects) secondary somatosensory cortex (SII)/insula, which were also activated by the itch stimuli in the fMRI experiment. We also observed an itch-related magnetic response in the posterior part of the centroparietal region in six subjects. MEG and fMRI data showed that the magnetic response in this region was mainly associated with itch-related activation of the precuneus. The latency was significantly longer in the ipsilateral than that in the contralateral SII/insula, suggesting the difference to be associated with transmission in the callosal fibers. The timing of activation of the precuneus was between those of the contralateral and ipsilateral SII/insula. Other sources were located in the premotor, primary motor, and anterior cingulate cortices (one subject each). This study is the first to demonstrate part of the time course of itch-related brain processing. Combining methods with high temporal and spatial resolution (e.g., MEG and fMRI) would be useful to investigate the temporal aspect of the brain mechanism of itch.
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