Scratching is catching in mice | Science News

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Scratching is catching in mice

Brain structures vital to mouse contagious itching identified

By
6:12pm, March 9, 2017
an itchy mouse

MOUSE SEE, MOUSE ITCH  Like people, mice experience sudden itches after seeing other mice scratch — a boon for studying the neuroscience of contagious behaviors.

Catch sight of someone scratching and out of nowhere comes an itch, too. Now, it turns out mice suffer the same strange phenomenon.

Tests with mice that watched itchy neighbors, or even just videos of scratching mice, provide the first clear evidence of contagious scratching spreading mouse-to-mouse, says neuroscientist Zhou-Feng Chen of Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. The quirk opens new possibilities for exploring the neuroscience behind the spread of contagious behaviors.

For the ghostly itch, experiments trace scratching to a peptide nicknamed GRP and areas of the mouse brain better known for keeping the beat of circadian rhythms, Chen and colleagues found. They report the results in the March 10 Science.

In discovering this, “there were lots of surprises,” Chen says. One was that mice, nocturnal animals that mostly sniff and whisker-brush their way

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