<< Chapter < Page Chapter >> Page >
By the end of this section, you will be able to:
  • Describe four important mechanoreceptors in human skin
  • Describe the topographical distribution of somatosensory receptors between glabrous and hairy skin
  • Explain why the perception of pain is subjective

Somatosensation is a mixed sensory category and includes all sensation received from the skin and mucous membranes, as well from as the limbs and joints. Somatosensation is also known as tactile sense, or more familiarly, as the sense of touch. Somatosensation occurs all over the exterior of the body and at some interior locations as well. A variety of receptor types—embedded in the skin, mucous membranes, muscles, joints, internal organs, and cardiovascular system—play a role.

Recall that the epidermis is the outermost layer of skin in mammals. It is relatively thin, is composed of keratin-filled cells, and has no blood supply. The epidermis serves as a barrier to water and to invasion by pathogens. Below this, the much thicker dermis contains blood vessels, sweat glands, hair follicles, lymph vessels, and lipid-secreting sebaceous glands ( [link] ). Below the epidermis and dermis is the subcutaneous tissue, or hypodermis, the fatty layer that contains blood vessels, connective tissue, and the axons of sensory neurons. The hypodermis, which holds about 50 percent of the body’s fat, attaches the dermis to the bone and muscle, and supplies nerves and blood vessels to the dermis.

Illustration shows a cross section of mammalian skin. The outer epidermis is a thin layer, smooth on the outside, bumpy on the inside. The middle dermis is much thicker than the dermis. Blood, nerve and lymph vessels run along the bottom of it, and smaller capillaries and nerve endings extend to the upper part. One nerve ends in a receptor. Sweat glands extend from the dermis into the epidermis. Hair follicles extend from the base of the dermis to the upper part where they are joined by oil glands. Hairs extend from the follicles, through the epidermis and out of the skin. The hypodermis is a fatty layer beneath the dermis.
Mammalian skin has three layers: an epidermis, a dermis, and a hypodermis. (credit: modification of work by Don Bliss, National Cancer Institute)

Somatosensory receptors

Sensory receptors are classified into five categories: mechanoreceptors, thermoreceptors, proprioceptors, pain receptors, and chemoreceptors. These categories are based on the nature of stimuli each receptor class transduces. What is commonly referred to as “touch” involves more than one kind of stimulus and more than one kind of receptor. Mechanoreceptors in the skin are described as encapsulated (that is, surrounded by a capsule) or unencapsulated (a group that includes free nerve endings). A free nerve ending    , as its name implies, is an unencapsulated dendrite of a sensory neuron. Free nerve endings are the most common nerve endings in skin, and they extend into the middle of the epidermis. Free nerve endings are sensitive to painful stimuli, to hot and cold, and to light touch. They are slow to adjust to a stimulus and so are less sensitive to abrupt changes in stimulation.

There are three classes of mechanoreceptors: tactile, proprioceptors, and baroreceptors. Mechanoreceptors sense stimuli due to physical deformation of their plasma membranes. They contain mechanically gated ion channels whose gates open or close in response to pressure, touch, stretching, and sound.” There are four primary tactile mechanoreceptors in human skin: Merkel’s disks, Meissner’s corpuscles, Ruffini endings, and Pacinian corpuscle; two are located toward the surface of the skin and two are located deeper. A fifth type of mechanoreceptor, Krause end bulbs, are found only in specialized regions. Merkel’s disks (shown in [link] ) are found in the upper layers of skin near the base of the epidermis, both in skin that has hair and on glabrous    skin, that is, the hairless skin found on the palms and fingers, the soles of the feet, and the lips of humans and other primates. Merkel’s disks are densely distributed in the fingertips and lips. They are slow-adapting, unencapsulated nerve endings, and they respond to light touch. Light touch, also known as discriminative touch, is a light pressure that allows the location of a stimulus to be pinpointed. The receptive fields of Merkel’s disks are small with well-defined borders. That makes them finely sensitive to edges and they come into use in tasks such as typing on a keyboard.

Questions & Answers

comapare and contrast food chain
Chengo Reply
what are the classes of biology
Oluebube Reply
Microbiology Biochemistry Botany Zoology Horticulture
Odion
what is translocation
James Reply
what is hominids
Dauba Reply
what is genetics
Musa Reply
what is meiosis?
Musa
list three vertebrate animal and three invertebrate animal
Katie Reply
lizard, goat, frog ,earthworm, housefly, tapeworm
idoko
what is meant by radial symmetry?
Boadi
what is meaning of polysaccharide
mark Reply
this is the combination of two or more monosacharide
bernard
long chain of monosacchrides joined together by glycosidic bonds
Pepper
water as a function in cell for inorganic substances
chisom Reply
hi john....wat about for mineral salts, its function in a cell and structure
chisom
hi chisom which topic is this
Ezeh
what is sepsis
Dauba
this biology is for which grade?
Janet Reply
A1
Boadi
state any one specialized animal cell and it's function
Pascal Reply
sperm cell: Fertilization
Tshering
Can DNA and RNA be praticalized
Oyewale Reply
you can make models of them and show how they replicate
Oswald
what is dentition
Tisa Reply
Study of teeths and their functions
Stanisla
what are the function
Tisa
it's not teeths. teeth is plural as well as singular noun. the function of the teeth is to cut and grind food for easier swallowing and for increasing the surface area if the fish as the substrate in which digestive enzymes work
Oswald
dentition is not the study of teeth but the arrangement of teeth in the mouth of species or individuals
Oswald
what are the two types of teeth
Tisa
upper lower jaw and upper jaw teeth
Dauba
Function of probosis
Adeola Reply
why do we study biology?
SYDNEY Reply
where biology began
Alhaji
What are chromesome
Talkmore Reply
condensed DNA wrapped with histone
Elias
chromosomes are gins that we take from our parents.when mom get pregnant the baby inside is made up of 23 chromosomes from his dad and 23 chromosomes from his mom.so a baby is made up of totally 46 chromosomes
ezera
chromosome are rod or thread shape body located in the nucleus of a cell.
Alhaji
what are chromosomes
Persiviour

Get the best Biology course in your pocket!





Source:  OpenStax, Biology. OpenStax CNX. Feb 29, 2016 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11448/1.10
Google Play and the Google Play logo are trademarks of Google Inc.

Notification Switch

Would you like to follow the 'Biology' conversation and receive update notifications?

Ask