Anatomy and Physiology of Sensory Systems

  • Aage R. MøllerEmail author


The receptors and the nervous system of our five sensory systems report events that occur outside the body to the brain as well as events that occur inside the body. Some of these events create conscious awareness while others do not. Some of the activation of sensory systems produces conscious awareness, whereas other sensory activation occurs without producing any awareness. Sensory information from the body itself is known as unconscious proprioception, and this kind of sensory activation occurs in the somatosensory system. A second type of sensory activation, exteroception, is concerned with events from outside the body such as touch, vibration, heat, and cold. Hearing, vision, taste, and olfaction are also senses of events from outside the body, thus, they too are included as sensations of exteroception. When the stimuli for these senses exceed the threshold for activation, they almost always cause awareness. Proprioception, such as that which occurs in the somatosensory system, can take place without creating any awareness, or it can cause awareness, for example, of the position of a limb. Conscious proprioception provides information about orientation of the body, movements of limbs, etc. The unconscious proprioception provides feedback to the motor system from receptors in muscles, ­tendons, and joints. This part of the somatosensory system is essential for controlling movements, and the loss of such feedback causes serious movement faults. Unconscious proprioception might be regarded as a part of the motor system rather than a part of the somatosensory system. The somatosensory system is, therefore, closely associated with the motor system.


Hair Cell Auditory Nerve Visual Evoke Potential Auditory Brainstem Response Outer Hair Cell 
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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Brain and Behavioral SciencesThe University of Texas at DallasRichardsonUSA

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