The Skin Senses

The receptors for the skin senses lie just below the surface and come in several varieties. These include receptors that respond to mechanical pressure (touch), temperature, and pain. Signals from these receptors go to the somatosensory areas of the parietal lobes.

However, the experiences of touch, temperature, or pain are not the result of a simple correspondence between the kind of stimulation and the neural impulses sent by the specific receptors. Pain, for example, can result from extreme stimulation of either of the other kinds of receptors, such as when you accidentally hit your thumb with a hammer or burn yourself with a match. Sensitivity to pain also varies considerably from one individual to the next, and people can learn to “control” pain with practice — especially if they have no choice because of bodily damage or disease. The experience of pain is therefore a function of higher thought processes as well as stimulation to the skin.

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