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Wikenigma - an Encyclopaedia of Unknowns Wikenigma - an Encyclopaedia of the Unknown Science

Meissner corpuscles

“The Meissner corpuscle, a mechanosensory end organ, was discovered more than 165 years ago and has since been found in the glabrous skin of all mammals, including that on human fingertips. Although prominently featured in textbooks, the function of the Meissner corpuscle is unknown.
Source: Science, June, 2020

The 40–60 μm diameter corpuscles are distributed in various areas of the skin, but particularly concentrated in (hairless) areas that are especially sensitive to 'light touch' such as the finger-pads and the lips. They are fast-acting and very sensitive to vibrations between 10 and 50 hertz. They rapidly detect and discriminate between very subtle shape and textural changes - and are crucial to exploratory and discriminatory touch.

Their force sensitivity, thresholds, kinetic properties and generalised method of operation are, as yet, only partially described and understood.

Note: The 'light touch' function is likely to be important for the perception of 'softness' - which is currently poorly understood.

Understanding how the mechanical properties of solid objects influence the perception of softness has been the subject of several investigations. However, a clear picture has yet to emerge from this work because both tactile cues believed to be important in the perception of softness (i.e., indentation depth andcontact area) are affected simultaneously by the mechanical properties (e.g., Young’s modulus, stiffness).
Source: Science Advances 5(8) 2019

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