Related topics: brain

Bacteria navigate on surfaces using a 'sense of touch'

Many disease-causing bacteria such as Pseudomonas aeruginosa crawl on surfaces through a walk-like motility known as "twitching." Nanometers-wide filaments called type IV pili are known to power twitching, but scientists ...

Restoring touch in nerves damaged by injury

Tel Aviv University's new and groundbreaking technology inspires hope among people who have lost their sense of touch in the nerves of a limb following amputation or injury. The technology involves a tiny sensor that is implanted ...

Force-sensing PIEZO proteins are at work in plants, too

A family of proteins that sense mechanical force—and enable our sense of touch and many other important bodily functions—also are essential for proper root growth in some plants, according to a study led by scientists ...

Robot 'shadow hand'

Picking up an apple is one of those jobs requiring the delicate touch of the human hand – or its robotic counterpart.

Force sensor integrated into surgical forceps

Samsung's Device and System Research Center present a force sensor integrated into surgical forceps to provide surgeons with a sense of touch in robotically-assisted procedures.

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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.

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