Psychology & Psychiatry

What's lost when we're too afraid to touch the world around us?

During one of my daily walks with my toddler, when we passed his favorite playground, I noticed a new sign warning that the coronavirus survives on all kinds of surfaces and that we should no longer use the playground. Since ...

Medical research

Researchers end decade-long search for mechanical pain sensor

Researchers at McGill University have discovered that a protein found in the membrane of our sensory neurons are involved in our capacity to feel mechanical pain, laying the foundation for the development of powerful new ...

Neuroscience

Approaching the perception of touch in the brain

More than ten percent of the cerebral cortex is involved in processing information about our sense of touch—a larger area than previously thought. This is the result of a joint study by researchers from the Max Planck Institute ...

Neuroscience

Researchers explore perceptions of touch in people with autism

For many people, simple sensations such as the gentle caress of a loved one or walking barefoot through the grass feel pleasant. For individuals with autism, the feeling of light pressure on the skin may be perceived as aversive ...

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Somatosensory system

The somatosensory system is a diverse sensory system comprising the receptors and processing centres to produce the sensory modalities such as touch, temperature, proprioception (body position), and nociception (pain). The sensory receptors cover the skin and epithelia, skeletal muscles, bones and joints, internal organs, and the cardiovascular system. While touch is considered one of the five traditional senses, the impression of touch is formed from several modalities; In medicine, the colloquial term touch is usually replaced with somatic senses to better reflect the variety of mechanisms involved.

The system reacts to diverse stimuli using different receptors: thermoreceptors, mechanoreceptors and chemoreceptors. Transmission of information from the receptors passes via sensory nerves through tracts in the spinal cord and into the brain. Processing primarily occurs in the primary somatosensory area in the parietal lobe of the cerebral cortex.

At its simplest, the system works when a sensory neuron is triggered by a specific stimulus such as heat; this neuron passes to an area in the brain uniquely attributed to that area on the body—this allows the processed stimulus to be felt at the correct location. The mapping of the body surfaces in the brain is called a homunculus and is essential in the creation of a body image.

This text uses material from Wikipedia, licensed under CC BY-SA