The peripheral mechanoreceptive system in the skin consists of several functional components: the mechanical response of the skin, the mechanical response of the end organ, the creation of the generator potential, the initiation of an action potential, and (for some units) the branching structure of the afferent fibers5. Experimentally, only the stimulus applied to the surface of the skin and the final afferent nerve fiber response (as the signal propagates toward the central nervous system) can be measured. The system must therefore be treated as a series of black boxes for which we only have access to the first input and the last output. Previous research has focused on one or another of these boxes and related them to the final output, despite the fact that the components act together to produce the response and cannot be treated in isolation. Here we examine the system as a whole, with the goal of attributing different aspects of the final nerve fiber response to the various components of the system. Our approach is to determine the components which are necessary and sufficient to describe this overall system response.
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