Sensory cells and sensory organs

  • Stephan Frings

Abstract

Animals possess sensory organs that collect information and convey this information to the central nervous system. This introductory chapter outlines how sensory cells perform their task of detecting adequate stimuli and how they produce electrical signals that encode information for the brain. In the course of animal evolution, the specific transduction mechanisms that operate in the various sensory cells have been optimized under intense selective pressure. The results of this process often include extreme sensitivity for the adequate stimuli and efficient signal amplification. To illustrate different solutions to the problem of detecting and encoding complex information, the sensory modalities of touch, vibration detection, hearing, vision, and olfaction are briefly introduced on the levels of key cell structures and transduction molecules. Pain perception is described as a sensory modality with very special features that differ fundamentally from those of other modalities. Thus, polymodality of sensory cells, modulation by the immune system, and suppression by endorphins represent characteristic properties of the pain system, linked to its unique protective function. This chapter is designed to direct the reader’s attention to some central points of the topic. It does not deal with the subject of sensory detection in a comprehensive way. It rather highlights a set of particularly important aspects of sensory transduction that may be of interest for the interdisciplinary approach followed in this book. Questions of sensitivity, selectivity, and adaptation in sensory cells are directly related to the mode of perception that defines our view of the world. Inasmuch as our sensory organs have been shaped by evolution, our perception of reality is the consequence of evolutionary forces and constraints as well.

Keywords

Hair Cell Sensory Organ Pain Perception Olfactory Epithelium Sensory Cell 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

References

  1. Bounoutas A, Chalfie M (2007) Touch sensitivity in Caenorhabditis elegans. Pflügers Arch — Eur J Physiol 454: 691–702CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Buck L, Axel R (1991) A novel multigene family may encode odorant receptors: a molecular basis for odor recognition. Cell 65: 175–187PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Conway Morris S (1998) The crucible of creation. The Burgess shale and the rise of animals. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  4. Fain GL (2003) Sensory transduction. Sinauer Ass., Sunderland, MAGoogle Scholar
  5. Fortey R (2000) Trilobite. Eyewitness to evolution. Vintage Books, New YorkCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Frings S (2009) Primary processes in sensory cells-current advances. J Comp Physiol A 195: 1–19CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Gehring WJ (2002) The genetic control of eye development and its implications for the evolution of the various eye-types. Int J Dev Biol 46: 65–73PubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. Hudspeth AJ (1989) How the ear’s works work. Nature 341: 397–404PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Land MF, Nilsson D-E (2002) Animal eyes. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  10. Kleene SJ, Gesteland RC (1981) Dissociation of frog olfactory epithelium with N-ethylmaleimide. Brain Res 229: 536–540PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Mombaerts P (2006) Axonal wiring in the mouse olfactory system. Ann Rev Cell Dev Biol 22: 713–737CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Mueller W, Frings S (2009) Tier-und Humanphysiologie. Springer, HeidelbergCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Waldeck C, Frings F (2005) Wie wir riechen, was wir riechen. Biol in uns Zeit 35: 302–310CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag/Wien 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Stephan Frings
    • 1
  1. 1.Molecular PhysiologyUniversity of HeidelbergHeidelbergGermany

Personalised recommendations