11 Mar 2017 06:45 PM EST
According to a new study done at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, socially contagious itching is hardwired into our brains. Researchers have used mice to demonstrate that when we see someone else scratching themselves, a chemical in the brain is released called gastrin-releasing peptide, which is a key component in transmitting itch signals. Principal investigator Zhou-Feng Chen, PhD says, "Sometimes even mentioning itching will make someone scratch. It is a hardwired behavior and is not a form of empathy."