(CBSNEWS) — Feeling itchy? Scientists may have discovered the mechanism of how our body initiates an itch.

A study using mice conducted at the National Institutes of Health showed that a molecule called natriuretic polypeptide b (Nppb) may be the culprit behind that pesky itch. This specific molecule sets off a chain reaction, leading to what our brain perceives as an itch, or what is medically known as pruritus.

“Our work shows that itch, once thought to be a low-level form of pain, is a distinct sensation that is uniquely hardwired into the nervous system with the biochemical equivalent of its own dedicated land line to the brain,” senior author Mark Hoon, a scientist at the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, part of the NIH, said in a press release.

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