Physiological mechanisms of the receptor system

  • Antony W. Goodwin
  • Heather E. Wheat


When we manipulate objects in our environment, a vast array of receptors in the skin, joints and muscles is activated. This information is relayed to the central nervous system and underlies two distinct but complementary aspects of hand function. Most obviously, these neural signals lead to haptic perception. We may sense how rough or smooth a surface is, or how curved an object is, whether it is soft or hard, whether the surface is slippery or sticky, how heavy it is and so on. Less obvious, but equally important, is the use the motor control system makes of these sensory signals in order to ensure appropriate hand movements resulting in stable grasps and effective complex manipulations. Some examples of common manipulations in our daily lives are: lifting a cup of coffee, opening a door, getting dressed, typing a manuscript, threading a needle.


Receptive Field Hand Movement Grip Force Population Response Glabrous Skin 
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Selected Readings

  1. Darian-Smith I (1984) The sense of touch: performance and peripheral neural processes. In: JM Brookhart, VB Mountcastle, I Darian-Smith, SR Geiger (eds) Handbook of Physiology — The Nervous System III. American Physiological Society, BethesdaGoogle Scholar
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  5. Vallbo AB, Johansson RS (1984) Properties of cutaneous mechanoreceptors in the human hand related to touch sensation. Hum Neurobiol 3: 3–14PubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Birkhäuser Verlag 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Antony W. Goodwin
    • 1
  • Heather E. Wheat
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Anatomy and Cell BiologyUniversity of MelbourneParkvilleAustralia

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