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Response of rapidly and slowly adapting mechanoreceptors and vibratory sensitivity in human hairy skin

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Single unit activity was recorded percutaneously with microelectrodes from 38 rapidly adapting (RA) mechanoreceptors of the dorsal surface of the hand in 49 awake human subjects. Tuning characteristics were determined for 28 RA-fibers at various frequencies between 5 and 100 cps of sinusoidal mechanical stimulation. In separate experiments human thresholds of vibration perception were studied under comparable conditions.

Several RA-mechanoreceptive fibers were broadly tuned, showing no clearly defined best frequency in the range between 5 and 20 cps. Other RA-fibers had a minimum of sensitivity between 20 and 40 cps. For either lower or higher frequencies, stronger stimuli were required to elicit one nerve impulse per stimulus cycle. These RA-receptors may be related to the perception of low frequency oscillation (flutter). They cannot account for human vibration sensitivity in the higher frequency range, since tuning of the receptors required considerably higher amplitudes than perception.

Sixteen slowly adapting (SA) mechanoreceptors of Type I and II showed a frequency modulation in phase with low frequency mechanical oscillations of stimulus amplitudes far below human thresholds for perception of movement.

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Konietzny, F., Hensel, H. Response of rapidly and slowly adapting mechanoreceptors and vibratory sensitivity in human hairy skin. Pflugers Arch. 368, 39–44 (1977). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF01063452

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Key words

  • Microelectrodes
  • Human nerve fibers
  • Mechanoreceptor
  • Tuning curves
  • Vibration perception