The Sensory System

Larry W. Swanson

in Brain Architecture

Second edition

Published on behalf of Oxford University Press

Published in print August 2011 | ISBN: 9780195378580
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199965120 | DOI:
The Sensory System

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The sensory systems are the easiest to understand intuitively and transmit information about external stimuli (exteroceptors) or internal stimuli (interoceptors) to the central nervous system. Sensory neurons themselves are specialized to detect and transduce specific classes of stimuli like temperature (thermoreceptors), chemicals (chemoreceptors), mechanical deformation (mechanoreceptors), light (photoreceptors), and osmolality (osmoreceptors). Most classes of sensory neuron have axons that travel through specific cranial and/or spinal nerves to the central nervous system, where they branch to innervate the motor system, cognitive system, and behavioral state system. Direct sensory inputs to the motor system mediate reflexes that are not necessarily associated with conscious experience. Sensory inputs to the cerebral cortex are associated with conscious sensation and perception, and the initiation of voluntary behaviors. Affect or feeling, which is associated with pain and pleasure, can be studied in the context of sensory information reaching the level of consciousness in the cerebrum (cognitive system). Emotion is an acute affective state whereas mood is a much longer-term affective state.

Chapter.  7155 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Development of the Nervous System

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