|Sensory nervous system|
The sensory nervous system is a part of the nervous system responsible for processing sensory information. A sensory system consists of sensory neurons (including the sensory receptor cells), neural pathways, and parts of the brain involved in sensory perception. Commonly recognized sensory systems are those for vision, hearing, touch, taste, smell, and balance. In short, senses are transducers from the physical world to the realm of the mind where we interpret the information, creating our perception of the world around us.
The nervous system is the part of an animal that coordinates its actions by transmitting signals to and from different parts of its body. The nervous system detects environmental changes that impact the body, then works in tandem with the endocrine system to respond to such events. Nervous tissue first arose in wormlike organisms about 550 to 600 million years ago. In vertebrates it consists of two main parts, the central nervous system (CNS) and the peripheral nervous system (PNS). The CNS consists of the brain and spinal cord. The PNS consists mainly of nerves, which are enclosed bundles of the long fibers or axons, that connect the CNS to every other part of the body. Nerves that transmit signals from the brain are called motor or efferent nerves, while those nerves that transmit information from the body to the CNS are called sensory or afferent. Spinal nerves serve both functions and are called mixed nerves. The PNS is divided into three separate subsystems, the somatic, autonomic, and enteric nervous systems. Somatic nerves mediate voluntary movement. The autonomic nervous system is further subdivided into the sympathetic and the parasympathetic nervous systems. The sympathetic nervous system is activated in cases of emergencies to mobilize energy, while the parasympathetic nervous system is activated when organisms are in a relaxed state. The enteric nervous system functions to control the gastrointestinal system. Both autonomic and enteric nervous systems function involuntarily. Nerves that exit from the cranium are called cranial nerves while those exiting from the spinal cord are called spinal nerves.
A sense is a physiological capacity of organisms that provides data for perception. The senses and their operation, classification, and theory are overlapping topics studied by a variety of fields, most notably neuroscience, cognitive psychology, and philosophy of perception. The nervous system has a specific sensory nervous system, and a sense organ, or sensor, dedicated to each sense.
Sensory neurons also known as afferent neurons are neurons that convert a specific type of stimulus, via their receptors, into action potentials or graded potentials. This process is called sensory transduction. The cell bodies of the sensory neurons are located in the dorsal ganglia of the spinal cord.
The receptive field is the area of the body or environment to which a receptor organ and receptor cells respond. For instance, the part of the world an eye can see, is its receptive field; the light that each rod or cone can see, is its receptive field.Receptive fields have been identified for the visual system, auditory system and somatosensory system.
The receptive field of an individual sensory neuron is the particular region of the sensory space in which a stimulus will modify the firing of that neuron. This region can be a hair in the cochlea or a piece of skin, retina, tongue or other part of an animal's body. Additionally, it can be the space surrounding an animal, such as an area of auditory space that is fixed in a reference system based on the ears but that moves with the animal as it moves, or in a fixed location in space that is largely independent of the animal's location. Receptive fields have been identified for neurons of the auditory system, the somatosensory system, and the visual system.
Rod cells are photoreceptor cells in the retina of the eye that can function in less intense light than the other type of visual photoreceptor, cone cells. Rods are usually found concentrated at the outer edges of the retina and are used in peripheral vision. On average, there are approximately 92 million rod cells in the human retina. Rod cells are more sensitive than cone cells and are almost entirely responsible for night vision. However, rods have little role in color vision, which is the main reason why colors are much less apparent in dim light, and not at all at night.
Cone cells, or cones, are photoreceptor cells in the retinas of vertebrate eyes. They respond differently to light of different wavelengths, and are thus responsible for color vision and function best in relatively bright light, as opposed to rod cells, which work better in dim light. Cone cells are densely packed in the fovea centralis, a 0.3 mm diameter rod-free area with very thin, densely packed cones which quickly reduce in number towards the periphery of the retina. There are about six to seven million cones in a human eye and are most concentrated towards the macula. The commonly cited figure of six million cone cells in the human eye was found by Osterberg in 1935. Oyster's textbook (1999) cites work by Curcio et al. (1990) indicating an average close to 4.5 million cone cells and 90 million rod cells in the human retina.
Sensory systems code for four aspects of a stimulus; type (modality), intensity, location, and duration. Arrival time of a sound pulse and phase differences of continuous sound are used for sound localization. Certain receptors are sensitive to certain types of stimuli (for example, different mechanoreceptors respond best to different kinds of touch stimuli, like sharp or blunt objects). Receptors send impulses in certain patterns to send information about the intensity of a stimulus (for example, how loud a sound is). The location of the receptor that is stimulated gives the brain information about the location of the stimulus (for example, stimulating a mechanoreceptor in a finger will send information to the brain about that finger). The duration of the stimulus (how long it lasts) is conveyed by firing patterns of receptors. These impulses are transmitted to the brain through afferent neurons.
In physiology, a stimulus is a detectable change in the internal or external environment. The ability of an organism or organ to respond to external stimuli is called sensitivity. When a stimulus is applied to a sensory receptor, it normally elicits or influences a reflex via stimulus transduction. These sensory receptors can receive information from outside the body, as in touch receptors found in the skin or light receptors in the eye, as well as from inside the body, as in chemoreceptors and mechanoreceptors. An internal stimulus is often the first component of a homeostatic control system. External stimuli are capable of producing systemic responses throughout the body, as in the fight-or-flight response. In order for a stimulus to be detected with high probability, its level must exceed the absolute threshold; if a signal does reach threshold, the information is transmitted to the central nervous system (CNS), where it is integrated and a decision on how to react is made. Although stimuli commonly cause the body to respond, it is the CNS that finally determines whether a signal causes a reaction or not.
Stimulus modality, also called sensory modality, is one aspect of a stimulus or what is perceived after a stimulus. For example, the temperature modality is registered after heat or cold stimulate a receptor. Some sensory modalities include: light, sound, temperature, taste, pressure, and smell. The type and location of the sensory receptor activated by the stimulus plays the primary role in coding the sensation. All sensory modalities work together to heighten stimuli sensation when necessary.
Time is the indefinite continued progress of existence and events that occur in apparently irreversible succession from the past through the present to the future. Time is a component quantity of various measurements used to sequence events, to compare the duration of events or the intervals between them, and to quantify rates of change of quantities in material reality or in the conscious experience. Time is often referred to as a fourth dimension, along with three spatial dimensions.
While debate exists among neurologists as to the specific number of senses due to differing definitions of what constitutes a sense, Gautama Buddha and Aristotle classified five ‘traditional’ human senses which have become universally accepted: touch, taste, smell, sight, and hearing. Other senses that have been well-accepted in most mammals, including humans, include nociception, equilibrioception, kinaesthesia, and thermoception. Furthermore, some nonhuman animals have been shown to possess alternate senses, including magnetoception and electroreception.
Gautama Buddha, also known as Siddhārtha Gautama in Sanskrit or Siddhattha Gotama in Pali, ShakyamuniBuddha, or simply the Buddha, after the title of Buddha, was a monk (śramaṇa), mendicant, sage, philosopher and teacher on whose teachings Buddhism was founded. He is believed to have lived and taught mostly in the northeastern part of ancient India sometime between the 6th and 4th centuries BCE.
Aristotle was an ancient Greek philosopher and scientist born in the city of Stagira, Chalkidiki, Greece. Along with Plato, he is considered the "Father of Western Philosophy". Aristotle provided a complex and harmonious synthesis of the various existing philosophies prior to him, including those of Socrates and Plato, and it was above all from his teachings that the West inherited its fundamental intellectual lexicon, as well as problems and methods of inquiry. As a result, his philosophy has exerted a unique influence on almost every form of knowledge in the West and it continues to be central to the contemporary philosophical discussion.
Taste, gustatory perception, or gustation is one of the five traditional senses that belongs to the gustatory system.
The initialization of sensation stems from the response of a specific receptor to a physical stimulus. The receptors which react to the stimulus and initiate the process of sensation are commonly characterized in four distinct categories: chemoreceptors, photoreceptors, mechanoreceptors, and thermoreceptors. All receptors receive distinct physical stimuli and transduce the signal into an electrical action potential. This action potential then travels along afferent neurons to specific brain regions where it is processed and interpreted.
A photoreceptor cell is a specialized type of neuroepithelial cell found in the retina that is capable of visual phototransduction. The great biological importance of photoreceptors is that they convert light into signals that can stimulate biological processes. To be more specific, photoreceptor proteins in the cell absorb photons, triggering a change in the cell's membrane potential.
In physiology, an action potential occurs when the membrane potential of a specific axon location rapidly rises and falls: this depolarisation then causes adjacent locations to similarly depolarise. Action potentials occur in several types of animal cells, called excitable cells, which include neurons, muscle cells, endocrine cells, and in some plant cells.
Afferent nerve fibers refer to axonal projections that arrive at a particular region; as opposed to efferent projections that exit the region. These terms have a slightly different meaning in the context of the peripheral nervous system (PNS) and central nervous system (CNS).
Chemoreceptors, or chemosensors, detect certain chemical stimuli and transduce that signal into an electrical action potential. The two primary types of chemoreceptors are:
The olfactory system, or sense of smell, is the part of the sensory system used for smelling (olfaction). Most mammals and reptiles have a main olfactory system and an accessory olfactory system. The main olfactory system detects airborne substances, while the accessory system senses fluid-phase stimuli.
The vomeronasal organ (VNO), or Jacobson's organ, is the paired auxiliary olfactory (smell) sense organ located in the soft tissue of the nasal septum, in the nasal cavity just above the roof of the mouth. The name is derived from the fact that it lies adjacent to the unpaired vomer bone in the nasal septum. It is present and functional in all snakes and lizards, and in many mammals, including cats, dogs, horses, cattle, pigs, and some primates; in humans it is present, but is vestigial and non-functional.
Oxygen is a chemical element with symbol O and atomic number 8. It is a member of the chalcogen group on the periodic table, a highly reactive nonmetal, and an oxidizing agent that readily forms oxides with most elements as well as with other compounds. By mass, oxygen is the third-most abundant element in the universe, after hydrogen and helium. At standard temperature and pressure, two atoms of the element bind to form dioxygen, a colorless and odorless diatomic gas with the formula O
2. Diatomic oxygen gas constitutes 20.8% of the Earth's atmosphere. As compounds including oxides, the element makes up almost half of the Earth's crust.
Photoreceptors are capable of phototransduction, a process which converts light (electromagnetic radiation) into, among other types of energy, a membrane potential. The three primary types of photoreceptors are: Cones are photoreceptors which respond significantly to color. In humans the three different types of cones correspond with a primary response to short wavelength (blue), medium wavelength (green), and long wavelength (yellow/red).Rods are photoreceptors which are very sensitive to the intensity of light, allowing for vision in dim lighting. The concentrations and ratio of rods to cones is strongly correlated with whether an animal is diurnal or nocturnal. In humans rods outnumber cones by approximately 20:1, while in nocturnal animals, such as the tawny owl, the ratio is closer to 1000:1. Ganglion Cells reside in the adrenal medulla and retina where they are involved in the sympathetic response. Of the ~1.3 million ganglion cells present in the retina, 1-2% are believed to be photosensitive ganglia. These photosensitive ganglia play a role in conscious vision for some animals, and are believed to do the same in humans.
Mechanoreceptors are sensory receptors which respond to mechanical forces, such as pressure or distortion.While mechanoreceptors are present in hair cells and play an integral role in the vestibular and auditory systems, the majority of mechanoreceptors are cutaneous and are grouped into four categories:
Thermoreceptors are sensory receptors which respond to varying temperatures. While the mechanisms through which these receptors operate is unclear, recent discoveries have shown that mammals have at least two distinct types of thermoreceptors:
Nociceptors respond to potentially damaging stimuli by sending signals to the spinal cord and brain. This process, called nociception, usually causes the perception of pain.They are found in internal organs, as well as on the surface of the body. Nociceptors detect different kinds of damaging stimuli or actual damage. Those that only respond when tissues are damaged are known as "sleeping" or "silent" nociceptors.
All stimuli received by the receptors listed above are transduced to an action potential, which is carried along one or more afferent neurons towards a specific area of the brain. While the term sensory cortex is often used informally to refer to the somatosensory cortex, the term more accurately refers to the multiple areas of the brain at which senses are received to be processed. For the five traditional senses in humans, this includes the primary and secondary cortices of the different senses: the somatosensory cortex, the visual cortex, the auditory cortex, the primary olfactory cortex, and the gustatory cortex.Other modalities have corresponding sensory cortex areas as well, including the vestibular cortex for the sense of balance.
Located in the parietal lobe, the primary somatosensory cortex is the primary receptive area for the sense of touch and proprioception in the somatosensory system. This cortex is further divided into Brodmann areas 1, 2, and 3. Brodmann area 3 is considered the primary processing center of the somatosensory cortex as it receives significantly more input from the thalamus, has neurons highly responsive to somatosensory stimuli, and can evoke somatic sensations through electrical stimulation. Areas 1 and 2 receive most of their input from area 3. There are also pathways for proprioception (via the cerebellum), and motor control (via Brodmann area 4). See also: S2 Secondary somatosensory cortex.
The visual cortex refers to the primary visual cortex, labeled V1 or Brodmann area 17, as well as the extrastriate visual cortical areas V2-V5.Located in the occipital lobe, V1 acts as the primary relay station for visual input, transmitting information to two primary pathways labeled the dorsal and ventral streams. The dorsal stream includes areas V2 and V5, and is used in interpreting visual ‘where’ and ‘how.’ The ventral stream includes areas V2 and V4, and is used in interpreting ‘what.’ Increases in Task-negative activity are observed in the ventral attention network, after abrupt changes in sensory stimuli, at the onset and offset of task blocks, and at the end of a completed trial.
Located in the temporal lobe, the auditory cortex is the primary receptive area for sound information. The auditory cortex is composed of Brodmann areas 41 and 42, also known as the anterior transverse temporal area 41 and the posterior transverse temporal area 42, respectively. Both areas act similarly and are integral in receiving and processing the signals transmitted from auditory receptors.
Located in the temporal lobe, the primary olfactory cortex is the primary receptive area for olfaction, or smell. Unique to the olfactory and gustatory systems, at least in mammals, is the implementation of both peripheral and central mechanisms of action. The peripheral mechanisms involve olfactory receptor neurons which transduce a chemical signal along the olfactory nerve, which terminates in the olfactory bulb. The chemo-receptors involved in olfactory nervous cascade involve using G-protein receptors to send their chemical signals down said cascade. The central mechanisms include the convergence of olfactory nerve axons into glomeruli in the olfactory bulb, where the signal is then transmitted to the anterior olfactory nucleus, the piriform cortex, the medial amygdala, and the entorhinal cortex, all of which make up the primary olfactory cortex.
In contrast to vision and hearing, the olfactory bulbs are not cross-hemispheric; the right bulb connects to the right hemisphere and the left bulb connects to the left hemisphere.
The gustatory cortex is the primary receptive area for taste. The word taste is used in a technical sense to refer specifically to sensations coming from taste buds on the tongue. The five qualities of taste detected by the tongue include sourness, bitterness, sweetness, saltiness, and the protein taste quality, called umami. In contrast, the term flavor refers to the experience generated through integration of taste with smell and tactile information. The gustatory cortex consists of two primary structures: the anterior insula, located on the insular lobe, and the frontal operculum, located on the frontal lobe. Similarly to the olfactory cortex, the gustatory pathway operates through both peripheral and central mechanisms. Peripheral taste receptors, located on the tongue, soft palate, pharynx, and esophagus, transmit the received signal to primary sensory axons, where the signal is projected to the nucleus of the solitary tract in the medulla, or the gustatory nucleus of the solitary tract complex. The signal is then transmitted to the thalamus, which in turn projects the signal to several regions of the neocortex, including the gustatory cortex.
The neural processing of taste is affected at nearly every stage of processing by concurrent somatosensory information from the tongue, that is, mouthfeel. Scent, in contrast, is not combined with taste to create flavor until higher cortical processing regions, such as the insula and orbitofrontal cortex.
The human sensory system consists of the following subsystems:
The primary sensory areas are the primary cortical regions of the five sensory systems in the brain. Except for the olfactory system, they receive sensory information from thalamic nerve projections. The term primary comes from the fact that these cortical areas are the first level in a hierarchy of sensory information processing in the brain. This should not be confused with the function of the primary motor cortex, which is the last site in the cortex for processing motor commands.
A chemoreceptor, also known as chemosensor, is a specialized sensory receptor cell which transduces (converts) a chemical substance and generates a biological signal. This signal may be in the form of an action potential if the chemoreceptor is a neuron, or in the form of a neurotransmitter that can activate a nearby nerve fiber if the chemosensor is a specialized sensory receptor cell, such as the taste receptor in a taste bud or in an internal peripheral chemoreceptor such as the carotid body. In more general terms, a chemosensor detects toxic or hazardous chemicals in the internal or external environment of the human body and transmits that information to the central nervous system,, in order to expel the biologically active toxins from the blood, and prevent further consumption of alcohol and/or other acutely toxic recreational intoxicants.
In physiology, sensory transduction is the conversion of a sensory stimulus from one form to another. Transduction in the nervous system typically refers to stimulus-alerting events wherein a physical stimulus is converted into an action potential, which is transmitted along axons towards the central nervous system for integration. It is a step in the larger process of sensory processing.
The adequate stimulus is a property of a sensory receptor that determines the type of energy to which a sensory receptor responds with the initiation of sensory transduction. Sensory receptor are specialized to respond to certain types of stimuli. The adequate stimulus is the amount and type of energy required to stimulate a specific sensory organ.
A mechanoreceptor is a sensory receptor that responds to mechanical pressure or distortion. Normally there are four main types in glabrous, or hairless, mammalian skin: lamellar corpuscles, tactile corpuscles, Merkel nerve endings, and bulbous corpuscles. There are also mechanoreceptors in hairy skin, and the hair cells in thoreceptors of primates like rhesus monkeys and other mammals are similar to those of humans and also studied even in early 20th century anatomically and neurophysiologically.
A nociceptor is a sensory neuron that responds to damaging or potentially damaging stimuli by sending “possible threat” signals to the spinal cord and the brain. If the brain perceives the threat as credible, it creates the sensation of pain to direct attention to the body part, so the threat can hopefully be mitigated; this process is called nociception.
The primary somatosensory cortex is located in the postcentral gyrus, and is part of the somatosensory system. It was initially defined from surface stimulation studies of Wilder Penfield, and parallel surface potential studies of Bard, Woolsey, and Marshall. Although initially defined to be roughly the same as Brodmann areas 3, 1 and 2, more recent work by Kaas has suggested that for homogeny with other sensory fields only area 3 should be referred to as "primary somatosensory cortex", as it receives the bulk of the thalamocortical projections from the sensory input fields.
Sensation is an animal's, including humans', detection of external or internal stimulation. It is different from perception, which is about making sense of, or describing, the stimulation.
In medicine and anatomy, the special senses are the senses that have specialized organs devoted to them:
In neurobiology, lateral inhibition is the capacity of an excited neuron to reduce the activity of its neighbors. Lateral inhibition disables the spreading of action potentials from excited neurons to neighboring neurons in the lateral direction. This creates a contrast in stimulation that allows increased sensory perception. It is also referred to as lateral antagonism and occurs primarily in visual processes, but also in tactile, auditory, and even olfactory processing. Cells that utilize lateral inhibition appear primarily in the cerebral cortex and thalamus and make up lateral inhibitory networks (LINs). Artificial lateral inhibition has been incorporated into artificial sensory systems, such as vision chips, hearing systems, and optical mice. An often under-appreciated point is that although lateral inhibition is visualised in a spatial sense, it is also thought to exist in what is known as "lateral inhibition across abstract dimensions." This refers to lateral inhibition between neurons that are not adjacent in a spatial sense, but in terms of modality of stimulus. This phenomenon is thought to aid in colour discrimination.
A topographic map is the ordered projection of a sensory surface, like the retina or the skin, or an effector system, like the musculature, to one or more structures of the central nervous system. Topographic maps can be found in all sensory systems and in many motor systems.
The sensory cortex can refer informally to the primary somatosensory cortex, or it can be used as a term for the primary and secondary cortices of the different senses : the visual cortex on the occipital lobes, the auditory cortex on the temporal lobes, the primary olfactory cortex on the uncus of the piriform region of the temporal lobes, the gustatory cortex on the insular lobe, and the primary somatosensory cortex on the anterior parietal lobes. Just posterior to the primary somatosensory cortex lies the somatosensory association cortex, which integrates sensory information from the primary somatosensory cortex to construct an understanding of the object being felt. Inferior to the frontal lobes are found the olfactory bulbs, which receive sensory input from the olfactory nerves and route those signals throughout the brain. Not all olfactory information is routed to the olfactory cortex. Some neural fibers are routed directly to limbic structures, while others are routed to the supraorbital region of the frontal lobe. Such a direct limbic connection makes the olfactory sense unique.
Mechanosensation is a response mechanism to mechanical stimuli. The physiological foundation for the senses of touch, hearing and balance, and pain is the conversion of mechanical stimuli into neuronal signals: mechanosensation. Mechanoreceptors of the skin, called cutaneous mechanoreceptors, are responsible for touch. Tiny cells in the inner ear, called hair cells, are responsible for hearing and balance. States of neuropathic pain, such as hyperalgesia and allodynia, are also directly related to mechanosensation. A wide array of elements are involved in the process of mechanosensation, many of which are still not fully understood.
The somatosensory system is a part of the sensory nervous system. The somatosensory system is a complex system of sensory neurons and pathways that responds to changes at the surface or inside the body. The axons of sensory neurons connect with, or respond to, various receptor cells. These sensory receptor cells are activated by different stimuli such as heat and nociception, giving a functional name to the responding sensory neuron, such as a thermoreceptor which carries information about temperature changes. Other types include mechanoreceptors, chemoreceptors, and nociceptors which send signals along a sensory nerve to the spinal cord where they may be processed by other sensory neurons and then relayed to the brain for further processing. Sensory receptors are found all over the body including the skin, epithelial tissues, muscles, bones and joints, internal organs, and the cardiovascular system.
Sensory maps are areas of the brain which respond to sensory stimulation, and are spatially organized according to some feature of the sensory stimulation. In some cases the sensory map is simply a topographic representation of a sensory surface such as the skin, cochlea, or retina. In other cases it represents other stimulus properties resulting from neuronal computation and is generally ordered in a manner that reflects the periphery. An example is the somatosensory map which is a projection of the skin's surface in the brain that arranges the processing of tactile sensation. This type of somatotopic map is the most common, possibly because it allows for physically neighboring areas of the brain to react to physically similar stimuli in the periphery or because it allows for greater motor control.
Many types of sense loss occur due to a dysfunctional sensation process, whether it be ineffective receptors, nerve damage, or cerebral impairment. Unlike agnosia, these impairments are due to damages prior to the perception process.
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