Somatosensory system

The somatosensory system is a part of the sensory nervous system. The somatosensory system is a complex system of sensory neurons and pathways that responds to changes at the surface or inside the body. The axons (as afferent nerve fibers), of sensory neurons connect with, or respond to, various receptor cells. These sensory receptor cells are activated by different stimuli such as heat and nociception, giving a functional name to the responding sensory neuron, such as a thermoreceptor which carries information about temperature changes. Other types include mechanoreceptors, chemoreceptors, and nociceptors and they send signals along a sensory nerve to the spinal cord where they may be processed by other sensory neurons and then relayed to the brain for further processing. Sensory receptors are found all over the body including the skin, epithelial tissues, muscles, bones and joints, internal organs, and the cardiovascular system.

Somatic senses are sometimes referred to as somesthetic senses, with the understanding that somesthesis includes the sense of touch, proprioception (sense of position and movement), and (depending on usage) haptic perception.

The mapping of the body surfaces in the brain is called somatotopy. In the cortex, it is also referred to as the cortical homunculus. This brain-surface ("cortical") map is not immutable, however. Dramatic shifts can occur in response to stroke or injury.

The four mechanoreceptors in the skin each respond to different stimuli for short or long periods.

Merkel cell nerve endings are found in the basal epidermis and hair follicles; they react to low vibrations (5–15 Hz) and deep static touch such as shapes and edges. Due to a small receptive field (extremely detailed info) they are used in areas like fingertips the most; they are not covered (shelled) and thus respond to pressures over long periods.

Tactile corpuscles react to moderate vibration (10–50 Hz) and light touch. They are located in the dermal papillae; due to their reactivity they are primarily located in fingertips and lips. They respond in quick action potentials, unlike Merkel. They are responsible for the ability to read Braille and feel gentle stimuli.

This page was last edited on 10 March 2018, at 02:59.
Reference: under CC BY-SA license.

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