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Summary

Background  Itch and pain are common symptoms in skin disease. It has been suggested that negative emotions may play a role in itch and pain. To date, however, the role of emotions has only been studied for pain in experimental studies, not yet for itch.

Objectives  To investigate the effects of negative and positive emotions on the sensitivity to itch and pain.

Methods  Film fragments were used to induce a negative or positive emotional state in healthy women. Itch and pain were induced using the following somatosensory stimuli: electrical stimulation, histamine iontophoresis and the cold pressor test.

Results  Results showed that the scores for itch and pain evoked by histamine and the cold pressor test, respectively, were significantly higher in the negative than in the positive emotion condition, whereas tolerance thresholds to electrical stimulation and the cold pressor test, and stimulus unpleasantness scores did not differ between the two conditions.

Conclusions  These findings for the first time indicate in an experimental design that emotions play a role in sensitivity to somatosensory sensations of both itch and pain.