Spinal Circuits Transmitting Mechanical Pain and Itch

Bo Duan1,* • Longzhen Cheng2,* • Qiufu Ma3,*

1Department of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology, University of Michigan, 830 North University Ave, Ann Arbor, MI 48109, USA
2Institute of Brain Science, the State Key Laboratory of Medical Neurobiology and the Collaborative Innovation Center for Brain Science, Fudan University, Shanghai 200032, China
3Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Department of Neurobiology, Harvard Medical School, 1 Jimmy Fund Way, Boston, MA 02115, USA


In 1905, Henry Head first suggested that transmission of pain-related protopathic information can be negatively modulated by inputs from afferents sensing innocuous touch and temperature. In 1965, Melzak and Wall proposed a more concrete gate control theory of pain that highlights the interaction between unmyelinated C fibers and myelinated A fibers in pain transmission. Here we review the current understanding of the spinal microcircuits transmitting and gating mechanical pain or itch. We also discuss how disruption of the gate control could cause pain or itch evoked by innocuous mechanical stimuli, a hallmark symptom for many chronic pain or itch patients.


Pain,Itch,Gate control,Spinal cord