Somatosenses: Definition and Function

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  • 0:04 What is Somatosensation?
  • 1:16 Functions
  • 3:37 Improper Functioning
  • 4:47 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Maria Airth

Maria has a Doctorate of Education and over 15 years of experience teaching psychology and math related courses at the university level.

The somatosensory system is your sense of touch. While this sounds quite simple, there is so much more to it than just feeling things through your fingers. This lesson discusses the definition and function of the somatosenses.

What Is Somatosensation?

How do you see? That's easy: your eyes are the receptors for your visual sense. How do you smell? Again, pretty easy: your olfactory sense organ is your nose. How do you feel? No, not ''Are you feeling okay?''; what do you actually use to feel? Did you say your fingers? Fingers or hands are a common first thought when we think of our sense of touch, or how we feel; however, our sense of touch is so much larger than just what we touch with our hands.

Maybe you thought about the question a bit more deeply. Did you come up with ''skin''? The epithelial, or skin, is the largest organ of the body and does indeed contain touch receptors. We can feel when someone, or something, touches us, no matter where they touch us. This ability to feel contact with our skin is evidence that our touch receptors are placed throughout the skin. But that isn't all. Did you know that the same system that identifies feeling on the skin also identifies internal feelings like pains and aches as well as temperature and even the movement of your body? The somatosensory system is the sensory system that interprets all signals from the body.


With most of our sensory organs, there is one clear organ that completes one clear job (for example, the tongue is used for tasting). With the somatosensory system, the entire body is used to interpret many different forms of touch sensation. These are different in interpretation, but they all use the same sensory system. Let's take a look at what the somatosensory system detects:

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