Sex Differences in Itch Perception and Modulation by Distraction – an fMRI Pilot Study in Healthy Volunteers
Background: Even though itch is a common syndrome of many diseases there is only little knowledge about sex and gender differences in pruritus, especially in central itch perception and modulation. To our knowledge, this is the first fMRI study examining sex differences in perception and its modulat...
|Division/Institute:||FB 05: Medizinische Fakultät|
|Date of publication on miami:||18.02.2014|
|Edition statement:||[Electronic ed.]|
|Source:||PLoS ONE 8 (2013) 11, e79123|
|DDC Subject:||150: Psychologie|
|License:||CC BY 3.0|
|Notes:||Finanziert durch den Open-Access-Publikationsfonds 2013/2014 der Deutschen Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) und der Westfälischen Wilhelms-Universität Münster (WWU Münster).|
|Other Identifiers:||DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0079123|
Background: Even though itch is a common syndrome of many diseases there is only little knowledge about sex and gender differences in pruritus, especially in central itch perception and modulation. To our knowledge, this is the first fMRI study examining sex differences in perception and its modulation by distraction. Methods: Experimental itch was induced by application of histamine (0.1 mM) via microdialysis fibers twice at the left forearm and twice at the left lower leg in 33 healthy volunteers (17 females, 16 males). The brain activation patterns were assessed by fMRI during itch without and with distraction (Stroop task). Between the various conditions, subjects were asked to rate itch intensity, desire to scratch and pain intensity. In a second experiment in 10 of the 33 volunteers histamine was replaced by saline solution to serve as control for the ‘Stroop’ condition. Results: Women generally presented higher itch intensities compared to men during itch over the course of the experiment. A more specific analysis revealed higher itch intensities and desire to scratch in women during experimental induced itch that can be reduced by distraction at the lower legs when itch is followed by ‘Stroop’. In contrast, men depicted significant reduction of ‘itch’ by ‘Stroop’ at the forearms. Women depicted higher brain activation of structures responsible for integration of sensory, affective information and motor integration/planning during ‘itch’ and ‘Stroop’ condition when compared to men. No sex differences were seen in the saline control condition. Conclusion: Women and men exhibited localisation dependent differences in their itch perception with women presenting higher itch intensities and desire to scratch. Our findings parallel clinical observations of women reporting higher itch intensities depending on itch localisation and suffering more from itch as compared to men.