Properties of cutaneous mechanoreceptors in the human hand related to touch sensation

Hum Neurobiol. 1984;3(1):3-14.


Recordings from single peripheral nerve fibres made it possible to analyse the functional properties of tactile afferent units supplying the glabrous skin of the human hand and to assess directly the relation between impulse discharge and perceptive experiences. The 17,000 tactile units in this skin area of the human hand are of four different types: two fast adapting types, FA I and FA II (formerly RA and PC), and two slowly adapting types, SA I and SA II. The receptive field characteristics and the densities in the skin of the type I units (FA I and SA I) indicate that these account for the detailed spatial resolution that is of paramount importance for the motor skill and the explorative role of the hand. The relationship between the stimulus amplitude and perceived intensity during sustained skin indentations did not match the corresponding stimulus response functions of SA units suggesting non-linear transformations within the central nervous system. These transformations, in turn, appear to vary between subjects. A single impulse in a single FA I unit may be felt when originating from the most important tactile regions of the hand, indicating that the psychophysical detection may be set by the threshold of the sense organs. Moreover, no significant noise seems to be superimposed in the respective central sensory pathways.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Electric Stimulation
  • Fingers / innervation
  • Hand / innervation*
  • Humans
  • Mechanoreceptors / physiology*
  • Nerve Fibers / physiology
  • Pacinian Corpuscles / physiology
  • Psychophysics
  • Sensory Thresholds
  • Skin / innervation*
  • Synaptic Transmission
  • Touch / physiology*