The sense of touch is one of the most vital; still, it is incompletely understood. We review the afferent function that allows for the relay of sensory information from the periphery (the skin) to the central nervous system. Within this afferent function, we examine the different integrating levels including several candidates for cutaneous transducers, the conduction of the information via the afferent nervous fibres and the transmission of the sensory stimuli to higher brain structures, resulting in the perception of the different senses. We then examine the efferent system that stimulates the skin by secreting neurotransmitters. Finally, we discuss the tools available to study the cutaneous neurovascular interaction and conclude on a novel test that assesses this interaction triggered by the application of a local non noxious pressure (tactile stimulation).
Keywords: Skin, sensory fibres, microcirculation, touch, receptors, ion channels, mechanosensitivity
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