MadSci Network: Neuroscience

Re: How can you tell what something is by touching it?

Date: Wed Jul 14 11:52:36 1999
Posted By: James Clack, Faculty, Biology, Indian Univ - Purdue Univ
Area of science: Neuroscience
ID: 921626234.Ns

Your brain is in charge of determining what something is by touch.  The 
brain receives input from mechanoreceptors in the skin, but that is the 
extent of the skin's involvement.  Of course, you really can't tell what 
anything is based on a first touch (or stimulation of any other sensory 
system).  We use multiple sensory modalities to classify an object.  We 
then store information about the nature of the sensations relative to 
our "identification" or classification of an object in the cerebral 
cortex.  There is an area in the cerebrum called the somatosensory 
association area where comparison of current sensations with previously 
experienced sensations occurs.  If the sensory pattern created by a 
current object matches that of a previously experienced object, we 
interpret the object as being the same as the object we stored in memory.

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