Lecture on November 12th: General principles of sensory processing

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University of Massachusetts Amherst
Psychology & Brain Sciences
Lori Astheimer Best

Behavioral Neuroscience, Lecture on November 12th General principles of sensory processing There are many different types of energy all around us. -sound, odors, vision and heat. This energy can effect us, so we must be able to detect it so that we can respond appropriately. How do we detect these energies? Through our sensory systems, starting with the receptor cells in our sensory receptor organs. Sensory receptor organs are specialized body parts particularly sensitive to some forms of energy. - the retina has receptor cells. These organs act as filters: - they detect some information and ignore other information. Not all species have the same hearing capabilities. Similarly, not all species see the same things. Humans are very visual, but some species can see things that we cannot. Sensory processing begins at receptor cells: - these receptors are whole cells, not like the receptor proteins we have been talking about so far. - their job is to convert (we usually say "transduce" outside energy into a language that the brain can understand: action potentials. -- this is what we mean by "signal transduction" conversion of one type into another. Auditory signal transduction: hair cells are the receptor cells in the inner ear. -hair cells sit in a membrane (basilar membrane) in the inner ear. Sound makes that membrane vibrate. - sound waves move into the cochlea where transductions occur. - the ear contains the three smallest bones in the body. Displacement of hairs leads to action potentials. -the "hairs" are embedded in another membrane and the vibration displaces the cells. - the hair displacement opens ion channels in the hair cell which allows positive ions to pass through -- stereocilia vibrate and move against the tectorial membrane which opens the ion channels. The first step in sensory processing is to change the electrical potential of the receptor cell. - this can lead to an action potential and release of neurotransmitters. - some receptor cells have axons and some do not. Then, somatosensory information enters CNS via the dorsal roots. - dorsal root ganglia get information from the periphery, like the skin, and bring it into the spinal cord and up into the brain. -- sensory information around the head and neck; that enters the CNS via cranial nerves. Different receptors in skin detect different types of stimuli. - Somatosensory
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