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Somatic Sense

Somatic Sense

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Author: Sophia Tutorial
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Determine how your body detects and interprets somatic sensations.

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Tutorial
what's covered
Welcome to this lesson today on somatic senses. Today you’ll be learning how the body detects somatic sensations. Specifically, you will be learning about:
  1. Somatic Sensation Detection
  2. Pain Overview
  3. Types of Pain
  4. How Pain Works
  5. Types of Sensory Detectors

1. Somatic Sensation Detection

Somatic sensations are detected by sensory input from the sensory receptors scattered throughout your body. They can be found in the skin, skeletal muscles, and the walls of some internal organs. Somatic sensations can include things like pain, touch, pressure, temperature, motion, et cetera.

Signals from sensory receptors will be sent to the somatosensory cortex, which is located in the cerebrum of the brain, more specifically the parietal lobe. Interneurons within the somatosensory cortex are associated with various parts of the body. These interneurons are organized and laid out like a map, and larger parts of the map are associated with more sensitive areas of the body because more sensitive areas of the body have more receptors.

IN CONTEXT

Your fingertips and your lips, which are very sensitive parts of your body are associated with more receptors and therefore take up larger areas of the somatosensory cortex.
terms to know
Somatic Sensations
Sensations such as touch, pressure, and pain that are detected by sensory receptors in the body

Somatosensory Cortex
A location in the cerebrum that interprets somatic sensations

2. Pain Overview

Pain is an example of a somatic sensation. Pain is a perceived injury and, although it is not a pleasant thing to experience, pain is actually an important protective feature of our body. Pain warns us that we've experienced some sort of injury to our body and that we need to withdraw from the situation that's causing that injury before a further injury occurs.

IN CONTEXT

If you've ever been cooking before near a stove and you accidentally touch your hand on the burner, you will feel pain in your hand. As a reaction, you'll pull your hand away because of that pain.

As you pull your hand away, it's not allowing for any more damage to occur.
term to know

Pain
A sensory experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage

3. Types of Pain

Visceral pain relates to internal organs and somatic pain relates to pain on the skin, skeletal muscles, joints, and tendons. Sometimes we perceive pain on our body's surface, even though the tissue damage is occurring in a visceral organ because the brain can't pinpoint the source of the pain. This is called referred pain.

EXAMPLE

An example of this is when a person has a heart attack, often they'll feel pain down their left arm. The body or the brain is not able to properly identify where that source of pain is coming from, so it will project it to another part of the body.

Phantom pain is when a person experiences pain in a missing limb; this is common among amputees. If a person has had their leg amputated, often they will say they can still experience pain in that missing limb even though it's not there anymore. This is something that's not really fully understood yet and requires more research.

terms to know
Visceral Pain
Pain felt in the internal organs
Somatic Pain
Pain felt in the skin, skeletal muscles, joints or tendons
Referred Pain
Referred pain is when pain from internal organs is wrongly projected to another part of the body

Phantom Pain
Pain that feels like it is coming from a body part that is no longer there; this is a common experience among amputees

4. How Pain Works

When signals of pain reach the brain, the hypothalamus will send signals to release endorphins and enkephalins. Endorphins and enkephalins are natural opiates that reduce our ability to perceive pain.

think about it
QUESTION: If it's important for us to feel pain to warn us of perceived injury, why would our body also release substances that reduce our ability to perceive pain? It seems like they contradict one another, right?

ANSWER: Some scientists believe that these will be released in a really stressful situation when a person has become injured as a way to not be incapacitated by that pain and continue to function.

IN CONTEXT

If you're a fan of Shark Week on the Discovery Channel, you've probably seen this before: If a person is swimming and they get attacked by a shark, often they'll say they didn't really feel anything.

They were scared, but they didn't feel any pain because endorphins and enkephalins were released that inhibited their ability to perceive that pain so that they could continue to swim and try to survive.

They could continue to function because if they were able to feel that pain, they would become incapacitated and would probably end up drowning.

Pain is not felt until after the stressful situation has ended. That's why some scientists think it's an evolutionary trait that has developed in order to allow a person to escape a stressful situation.


5. Types of Sensory Receptors

There are actually thousands of sensory receptors that are found in the skin that detect touch, pressure, cold, warmth, and pain. Different types of receptors can be found at different layers of skin and within different depths, depending on which type of sensation they are there to detect.

One type of receptor that can be found in the skin are thermoreceptors, which are used to detect temperature changes. There are a couple of different types of thermoreceptors, depending on which type of temperature they are detecting.

Free nerve endings are also found within the skin, but they're also found in other internal tissues. There are actually several different types of free nerve endings that can detect touch, pressure, heat, cold, or pain. Free nerve endings are very simple in structure and are the dendrites of sensory neurons. Nociceptors are examples of free nerve endings that specifically detect pain.

Encapsulated receptors are enclosed in a capsule of connective tissue or epithelial tissue.

EXAMPLE

Pacinian corpuscles detect deep pressure or vibrations. Merkel's discs are also encapsulated receptors that detect steady touch.

Then we also have other types of encapsulator receptors that detect light touch. So depending on the type of touch, we have different types of receptors that will interpret that information. There is also the case of becoming less aware of a stimulus with repeated exposure, which is called sensory adaptation.

terms to know
Free Nerve Ending
Receptors that detect touch, pressure, heat, cold and pain
Encapsulated Receptor
A type of sensory receptor encapsulated or enclosed in epithelial or connective tissue

Sensory Adaptation
An adaptation to a stimulus or becoming less aware of a stimulus over time

summary
This lesson has been an overview of somatic sensations. Specifically, you learned about somatic sensation detection. You also looked at an overview of pain, the types of pain and how pain works. Finally, you learned about the different types of sensory detectors. Keep up the learning and have a great day!

Source: THIS WORK IS ADAPTED FROM SOPHIA AUTHOR AMANDA SODERLIND

Terms to Know
Encapsulated Receptor

A type of sensory receptor encapsulated or enclosed in epithelial or connective tissue.

Free Nerve Ending

Receptors that detect touch, pressure, heat, cold, and pain.

Pain

A sensory experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage.

Phantom Pain

Pain that feels like it is coming from a body part that is no longer there. This is a common experience among amputees.

Referred Pain

A person's perception of pain that can be wrongly projected from an internal organ to the body's surface because the brain cannot pinpoint the source of the pain.

Sensory Adaptation

An adaptation to a stimulus; becoming less aware of a stimulus over time.

Somatic Pain

Pain felt in the skin, skeletal muscles, joints, or tendons.

Somatic Sensations

Sensations such as touch, pressure, and pain that are detected by sensory receptors in the body.

Somatosensory Cortex

A location in the cerebrum that interprets somatic sensations.

Visceral Pain

Pain felt in the internal organs.