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Too hot to touch

This photo shows a red hot electric stove top.
When high temperature is sensed in the skin, a reflexive withdrawal is initiated by the muscles of the arm. Sensory neurons are activated by a stimulus, which is sent to the central nervous system, and a motor response is sent out to the skeletal muscles that control this movement.

Chapter objectives

After studying this chapter, you will be able to:

  • Describe the components of the somatic nervous system
  • Name the modalities and submodalities of the sensory systems
  • Distinguish between general and special senses
  • Describe regions of the central nervous system that contribute to somatic functions
  • Explain the stimulus-response motor pathway

The somatic nervous system is traditionally considered a division within the peripheral nervous system. However, this misses an important point: somatic refers to a functional division, whereas peripheral refers to an anatomic division. The somatic nervous system is responsible for our conscious perception of the environment and for our voluntary responses to that perception by means of skeletal muscles. Peripheral sensory neurons receive input from environmental stimuli, but the neurons that produce motor responses originate in the central nervous system. The distinction between the structures (i.e., anatomy) of the peripheral and central nervous systems and functions (i.e., physiology) of the somatic and autonomic systems can most easily be demonstrated through a simple reflex action. When you touch a hot stove, you pull your hand away. Sensory receptors in the skin sense extreme temperature and the early signs of tissue damage. This triggers an action potential, which travels along the sensory fiber from the skin, through the dorsal spinal root to the spinal cord, and directly activates a ventral horn motor neuron. That neuron sends a signal along its axon to excite the biceps brachii, causing contraction of the muscle and flexion of the forearm at the elbow to withdraw the hand from the hot stove. The withdrawal reflex has more components, such as inhibiting the opposing muscle and balancing posture while the arm is forcefully withdrawn, which will be further explored at the end of this chapter.

The basic withdrawal reflex explained above includes sensory input (the painful stimulus), central processing (the synapse in the spinal cord), and motor output (activation of a ventral motor neuron that causes contraction of the biceps brachii). Expanding the explanation of the withdrawal reflex can include inhibition of the opposing muscle, or cross extension, either of which increase the complexity of the example by involving more central neurons. A collateral branch of the sensory axon would inhibit another ventral horn motor neuron so that the triceps brachii do not contract and slow the withdrawal down. The cross extensor reflex provides a counterbalancing movement on the other side of the body, which requires another collateral of the sensory axon to activate contraction of the extensor muscles in the contralateral limb.

A more complex example of somatic function is conscious muscle movement. For example, reading of this text starts with visual sensory input to the retina, which then projects to the thalamus, and on to the cerebral cortex. A sequence of regions of the cerebral cortex process the visual information, starting in the primary visual cortex of the occipital lobe, and resulting in the conscious perception of these letters. Subsequent cognitive processing results in understanding of the content. As you continue reading, regions of the cerebral cortex in the frontal lobe plan how to move the eyes to follow the lines of text. The output from the cortex causes activity in motor neurons in the brain stem that cause movement of the extraocular muscles through the third, fourth, and sixth cranial nerves. This example also includes sensory input (the retinal projection to the thalamus), central processing (the thalamus and subsequent cortical activity), and motor output (activation of neurons in the brain stem that lead to coordinated contraction of extraocular muscles).

Questions & Answers

why should there be an inhibition to the process of gastric production in the intestinal
Gloria Reply
what is a stimuli
Emily Reply
environment factor that cause a cell to respond
name the two types of melanin
Laila Reply
deference between RNA and DNA
.DNA stands for Deoxyribonucleic Acid. The sugar portion of DNA is 2-Deoxyribose.RNA stands for Ribonucleic Acid.  The sugar portion of RNA is Ribose.2.The helix geometry of DNA is of B-Form (A or Z also present).The helix geometry of RNA is of A-Form.3.DNA is a double-stranded molecule consisting o
DNA consists of nucleotide but RNA consists of nucleoside DNA is double standard but RNA is single standard.In DNA at the nitrogen bases adinine,guanine,cytocin and thymine is present but in case of RNA instead of thymine uracil is present.
what are rdna
what is a heart
walker Reply
A heart is an organ in the circulatory system that pumps blood throughout the systemic regions
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Anatomy is the study of internal and external structures and the relationship among body parts. (the study of structure).
what is the physiology of the heart
guys help me with a pathophysiology of asthma
asthma is a lungs related disorder in which there is difficulty in breathing due to some allergic factors, their is inflamation of alveoli of respiratory part of lungs.also decreases the surface area.
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the pathophysiology of asthma is complex and involves airway inflammation and bronchial hyperresponsiveness pathogenesis of asthma
skin infection please explain
Hamza Reply
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cancerous cells 🙄
yes benign is non-cancerous malignant is cancerous.
that's a simple way of explaining it however you're different processes like mitosis etc a person can be at risk for developing cancer etc
you can tell by an unusual growth of a mole, or change in size coloration with melanoma. which is abnormal growth of your squamous cells.
Types of wandering connective tissues
Hassan Reply
what are the meaning of skin
study of external structure of human body is known as anatomy
what is Tau?
Vicki Reply
what is sliva
Saqlain Reply
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Kiran Reply
Describe the characteristics of tissue lining the respiratory passage way
arach Reply
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shakainah Reply
Anatomy which study's about the structure.
Umair Reply
external structure of body
spinal cord injury
spinal cord injury

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Source:  OpenStax, Anatomy & Physiology. OpenStax CNX. Feb 04, 2016 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11496/1.8
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