Somatosensation: Definition & Process

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  • 0:01 Somatosensation
  • 0:35 Types of Somatosensation
  • 2:18 The Process
  • 3:45 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

Can your brain really hurt? You'll find out in this lesson as we go over the definition of somatosensation and its many aspects, like thermoreception, mechanoreception, and nociception.


Do you feel pain when someone pinches you? Can you feel the difference between an ice cold bucket and a hot stove? Are you able to sense someone poking you? I bet you are able to do this. All this occurs thanks to somatosensation, the ability for the body to sense things like pain, pressure, temperature, and joint position. We're going to cover some of the processes involved in somatosensation. Although I encourage you to watch the many lessons we have on specific types of thermoreception, mechanoreception, and nociception for more detailed information.

Types of Somatosensation

Maybe what I just said got you a bit confused. What is thermoreception? Mechanoreception? And nociception?

Thermoreception refers to the ability to detect and differentiate between hot and cold. The thermo in thermoreception should remind you of a thermometer which is just the same thing. Thus the process of thermoreception refers to your ability to sense things that are hot to the touch, like a stove, or cold to the touch, like snow.

Mechanoreception is the process of sensing mechanical stimuli like pressure. An example of this would be someone poking you. If you can feel that, well, that occurs thanks to mechanoreception.

Nociception is the ability to feel pain. It someone jabs you with a needle or pinches you real hard you are probably going to be in pain. You can thank nociception for that.

The final aspect of somatosensation is proprioception, the ability to sense the movement, balance, and positioning of the body and its limbs, independent of vision. Confused as to what this really means? Well, if you raised your arm above your head and I ask you, 'Where is your arm?' You'd tell me it's above you head because you can see that quite clearly. Now, if I blindfold you and raise your arm above your head you can no longer see that it's above your head. However, you can feel it. Can't you? You know it's above your head even without visual or auditory stimuli. That occurs thanks to proprioception.

I'd like to quickly note that, depending on who you ask, proprioception may or may not be grouped into the somatosensory system and it is therefore sometimes classified separately from somatosensation.

The Process

Now that you understand the basic points about the difference aspects of somatosensation, let's go over the general understanding of how these processes occur and how they are possible.

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