Theses Doctoral

The Functional Diversity of Mammalian Touch Receptors

Marshall, Kara L.

Humans in the modern world can survive without the Aristotelian senses of vision, hearing, smell or taste, but no one is completely without the ability to sense touch. This sense is essential for everything from basic tasks like tool manipulation to the complex interactions that underlie social bonding, sexual reproduction and pleasure. Touch receptors are embedded in the skin, at the interface of our bodies and the world. A remarkable array of varied receptor types tile our skin to signal different features of the objects we touch and alert us to their shape and texture. An early investigator of the neurological basis of touch, Maximillian von Frey, proposed in 1895 that the morphological diversity of neural endings in the skin could represent functional specificity. It is indeed the evolution of diverse receptor structures that has endowed the sensory organ of our skin with remarkable somatosensory functions. Here I explore the evolution of mechanosensing, and discuss how diversity in form and organization of touch receptors, from the cellular to organismal level, can shape the function of touch reception.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Cellular, Molecular and Biomedical Studies
Thesis Advisors
Lumpkin, Ellen A.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
December 6, 2016