The structure and function of a slowly adapting touch corpuscle in hairy skin

J Physiol. 1969 Feb;200(3):763-96. doi: 10.1113/jphysiol.1969.sp008721.


1. Slowly adapting cutaneous mechanoreceptors, in the cat and primates, have been studied by histological and neurophysiological methods.2. Each touch corpuscle is a dome-shaped elevation of the epidermis, whose deepest layer contains up to fifty specialized tactile cells.3. Nerve plates, enclosed by the tactile cell (Merkel cells), are connected to a single myelinated axon in the dense collagenous core of the corpuscle.4. The corpuscle generated > 1000 impulses/sec when excited by vertical surface pressure. The response was highly localized and showed a low mechanical threshold, the frequency being dependent upon the velocity and amplitude of the displacement. There was a period of rapid adaptation before a sustained response which might continue for > 30 min.5. A quantitative analysis of the responses to excitation by displacements of differing amplitude, velocity and duration is included.6. The discharge of touch corpuscle units evoked by a mechanical stimulus was temperature-sensitive, and was enhanced by a fall in skin temperature.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological
  • Animals
  • Axons / physiology
  • Cats
  • Electrophysiology
  • Hair / cytology
  • Haplorhini
  • Pressure
  • Sensory Receptor Cells / cytology*
  • Sensory Receptor Cells / physiology*
  • Skin Physiological Phenomena*
  • Temperature
  • Time Factors
  • Touch*