Why do we itch every time we see others scratching?

When you see someone scratching, you may feel an itch, and scratching is not a dominant psychological response, but a “social contagion” response that connects directly to your brain.

New research has found that our brains are instinctively preoccupied with the actions of others. The specific manifestation is the repetition of behavior or attitudes between individuals.

Likewise, when we see someone else yawn, we tend to react to the action by yawning along.

This study, conducted by a team of experts from Washington State University (USA), shows that itching is also a special “contagious” social behavior. Even the mere mention of an itch is enough to make us want to scratch sometimes.

Why do we itch every time we see others scratching?
The act of scratching an itch when you see someone else doing it is actually instinctive. (Photo: The Huffington Post).

According to the research team’s survey, many people think that this reaction only exists in the brain, but actual experiments show that the cause is instinctive rather than a form of empathy.

To draw these important conclusions, the team conducted an interesting test on mice.

Dr. Zhou-Feng Chen, director of the Center for Research on Itching at the University of Washington, describes the particular experiment:

“The mice were placed in a room with a computer monitor, which played a video of another rat scratching. Seconds later, the mice in the room also started scratching. This was surprising because the mouse was is a species known to have poor vision”.

Rats often use smell and touch to explore things around them. Therefore, whether they saw the video of the experiment or not is still unknown.

However, even if they can’t see the video, they can still know the exact action of the mouse scratching on the screen.

Observing the brain activity assessment results of mice after watching the video showed that the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) area of the brain (which is responsible for regulating sleep cycles) suddenly became active. .

Why do we itch every time we see others scratching?
GRP plays a role in signaling when we see someone scratching an itch. (Photo: Independent).

When analyzing the brain activity of the mice when they started scratching, the team found that the SCN released a substance called GRP ( gastrin-releasing peptide ). Dr. Chen’s previous research showed that GRP helps transmit itch signals from the skin to the spinal cord.

Lab rats scratched their itch not because they saw another mouse doing this, but because they themselves thought it was necessary to do the same thing.

According to the experts, these findings suggest that the mice themselves cannot control scratching when they see similar behavior in other mice.

Specifically, the brains of mice started emitting an itch signal using GRP as a messenger. It is an innate and completely instinctive behavior that humans also exhibit.

This is exactly why people feel itchy and follow the urge to see others scratching.