Neuroscience

An appetite map in the brain

Let's face it. As enticing as the idea of starting lunch with a chocolate cake might be, few would actually make that choice when it comes down to it. And yet, at the end of the meal, many would reach for that same cake without ...

Diseases, Conditions, Syndromes

Scientists identify sensor underlying mechanical itch stimulus

Scientists at Scripps Research Institute have identified a protein in sensory nerves that works as a key detector of itch—specifically the "mechanical" itch stimulus of crawling insects, wool fibers, or other irritating ...

Neuroscience

How the brain interprets motion while in motion

Imagine you're sitting on a train. You look out the window and see another train on an adjacent track that appears to be moving. But, has your train stopped while the other train is moving, or are you moving while the other ...

Neuroscience

Neural pathway key to sensation of pleasant touch identified

Studying mice, scientists at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have identified a neural circuit and a neuropeptide—a chemical messenger that carries signals between nerve cells—that transmit the sensation ...

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Sensory neuron

Sensory neurons are neurons that are activated by sensory input (vision, touch, hearing, etc.), and send projections into the central nervous system that convey sensory information to the brain or spinal cord. Unlike neurons of the central nervous system, whose inputs come from other neurons, sensory neurons are activated by physical modalities such as light, sound, temperature, chemical stimulation, etc.

In complex organisms, sensory neurons relay their information to the central nervous system or in less complex organisms, such as the hydra, directly to motor neurons and sensory neurons also transmit information (electrical impulses) to the brain, where it can be further processed and acted upon. For example, olfactory sensory neurons make synapses with neurons of the olfactory bulb, where the sense of olfaction (smell) is processed.

At the molecular level, sensory receptors located on the cell membrane of sensory neurons are responsible for the conversion of stimuli into electrical impulses. The type of receptor employed by a given sensory neuron determines the type of stimulus it will be sensitive to. For example, neurons containing mechanoreceptors are sensitive to tactile stimuli, while olfactory receptors make a cell sensitive to odors.

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