Professor Francis McGlone Wins Ig Nobel prize

Professor Francis McGlone Wins Ig Nobel prizeThe 29th Ig Nobel prize ceremony happened on 12th September 2019 At Harvard University, Massachusetts , USA where our very own Francis Mcglone was awarded his peace prize for “The pleasurability of scratching an itch: A psychological and topographical assessment”

A statement from Professor Mcglone follows:

Scratching is one of the sweetest gratifications of nature, and as ready at hand as any” Montaigne

What is it about an itch that you simply cannot ignore – as I’m writing this I’ve just scratched my scalp – and why when I scratch the itchy body part does it generate such a sense of pleasure and relief (I have now just scratched my ear!)?  An Ig Nobel prize was awarded this year to myself and colleagues, working with Professor Gil Vosipovitch (, for mapping out which parts of the body are the most pleasurable to scratch – the ankles won out over the back and the forearm.

Ig Nobel prizes honour work that “first makes people laugh, and then makes them think” and are always based on sound science. People generally find itch funny and of little consequence, you just scratch it and it goes away, but this is not the case with chronic itch, a devastating condition.  I recall a patient I was studying when working at the PRI who suffered from phantom pain after losing his foot having stepped on a landmine, but what he was most distressed about was the phantom itch he felt between his toes! People suffering from chronic itch will scratch the body part until it bleeds – in fact the resulting pain is seen as preferable to the itch.  This observation opens up interesting insights into the underlying mechanisms of how nociception gates pruriception, and why scratching an itch is so pleasant. Each of these three senses  – itch, pain and pleasure – has a dedicated c-fibre and a dedicated society – the IASAT for pain (, the IFSI for itch ( and the more recently formed IASAT ( for pleasure.  The link between pain and itch has now been finally recognised with the IASP establishing a SIG on itch (, and I hope at some stage all three societies merge into one as it is of great interest, both from a scientific basis and a clinical one, to discover how these different c-fibres ‘talk to each other’, particularly in chronic conditions.