Biology » Sensory Systems » Somatosensation

Summarizing Somatosensation

Summary

Somatosensation includes all sensation received from the skin and mucous membranes, as well as from the limbs and joints. Somatosensation occurs all over the exterior of the body and at some interior locations as well, and a variety of receptor types, embedded in the skin and mucous membranes, play a role.

There are several types of specialized sensory receptors. Rapidly adapting free nerve endings detect nociception, hot and cold, and light touch. Slowly adapting, encapsulated Merkel’s disks are found in fingertips and lips, and respond to light touch. Meissner’s corpuscles, found in glabrous skin, are rapidly adapting, encapsulated receptors that detect touch, low-frequency vibration, and flutter. Ruffini endings are slowly adapting, encapsulated receptors that detect skin stretch, joint activity, and warmth. Hair receptors are rapidly adapting nerve endings wrapped around the base of hair follicles that detect hair movement and skin deflection. Finally, Pacinian corpuscles are encapsulated, rapidly adapting receptors that detect transient pressure and high-frequency vibration.

Glossary

free nerve ending

ending of an afferent neuron that lacks a specialized structure for detection of sensory stimuli; some respond to touch, pain, or temperature

glabrous

describes the non-hairy skin found on palms and fingers, soles of feet, and lips of humans and other primates

Golgi tendon organ

muscular proprioceptive tension receptor that provides the sensory component of the Golgi tendon reflex

Meissner’s corpuscle

(also, tactile corpuscle) encapsulated, rapidly-adapting mechanoreceptor in the skin that responds to light touch

Merkel’s disc

unencapsulated, slowly-adapting mechanoreceptor in the skin that responds to touch

muscle spindle

proprioceptive stretch receptor that lies within a muscle and that shortens the muscle to an optimal length for efficient contraction

nociception

neural processing of noxious (such as damaging) stimuli

Pacinian corpuscle

encapsulated mechanoreceptor in the skin that responds to deep pressure and vibration

Ruffini ending

(also, bulbous corpuscle) slowly-adapting mechanoreceptor in the skin that responds to skin stretch and joint position

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