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Clin Exp Pharmacol Physiol. 2005 Jan-Feb;32(1-2):100-8.

Mechanosensory perception: are there contributions from bone-associated receptors?

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1
Department of Physiology and Pharmacology, The University of New South Wales, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. m.rowe@unsw.edu.au

Abstract

1. The identity of the receptors and afferent nerve fibres that mediate the sense of touch varies somewhat with body location. Those that have been most intensively characterized are associated with the distal glabrous skin of the limbs and, in primates, mediate the sense of touch in the fingertips and palms. In this glabrous skin region, there appear to be three or four principal classes of tactile sensory nerves that fall into two broad groups. One group, the so-called slowly adapting (SA) receptors and afferent fibres, is responsive to static mechanical displacement of skin tissues and is made up of two classes, the type I (SAI) fibres that innervate Merkel receptors and the type II (SAII) fibres that innervate Ruffini endings. The second broad group displays a pure dynamic sensitivity to tactile stimuli and also falls into two principal classes, the rapidly adapting (RA) tactile fibres that are associated with Meissner corpuscle receptors and the Pacinian corpuscle (PC)-associated class of tactile afferent fibres. 2. In other regions of the skin, such as the hairy skin of the arms, legs and trunk, there are similar functional classes of tactile sensory nerves, although the receptor endings differ somewhat from those of the glabrous skin. 3. Receptors in close association with the long bones of the limbs include groups of Pacinian corpuscles distributed along the interosseous membranes. These are highly sensitive to dynamic forms of mechanical stimuli, in particular vibrotactile disturbances. However, despite their close association with bone, these receptors probably cannot be legitimately considered 'osseoreceptors'. 4. Both the periosteum and the bone marrow are richly supplied by nerve fibres. However, much evidence indicates that these are largely or entirely in the fine-diameter category of nerve fibres, whose roles may be confined to either nociception or to the efferent autonomic regulation of bone-associated blood vessels. 5. In conclusion, it remains uncertain whether any aspects of our innocuous touch or kinaesthetic senses, in either the limbs or in orofacial regions, can be ascribed to 'osseoreceptors' located in the periosteum or within the bone marrow itself.

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