The body of a human being is made up of various systems all of which are important for its functioning. Some of the major body systems include the respiratory, digestive, nervous, sensory, and reproductive systems just to mention a few. The systems work concurrently or one leads to the other helping the body function as required. This paper is an in-depth analysis of the sensory system by looking at its functions in the body as well as the pathways it uses.
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The sensory system happens to be part of the nervous system, which is concerned, with passage of information from the external environment to the internal environment and vice versa (Kandel et al., 2000). A sensory system comprises of the brain and muscles in the internal environment while the external environment is made up of several body parts such as the eyes, ears, skin and hair.
The main function of the sensory system is the conduction of information to the brain for processing. It does this through the sensory receptors that receive stimuli and transmits it via neural pathways. The information conducted by the sensory system is referred to as sensory information. Sensory information is known to cause conscious awareness in some instances thus creating sensation.
The sensory system is important to human beings and other animals as it helps in vision, hearing, taste, smell and touch modalities among others. Without the sensory system, the aforementioned senses would not be felt and the body would be as numb as a log. The sensory system functions with the help of receptors and receptor organs to enable the transmission and interpretation of information in the respective sensory organs.
Once the information is transmitted, the sensory system stimulates action of the receptive organ. For example, when a person steps on a sharp object and pricked, the sensory system sends pain information to the brain (Neil, 2010). The brain then activates the leg muscles making the muscle remove the leg from the point of pricking to prevent more pain.
The sensory system uses sensory pathways to transmit information from one site to another throughout the body. Sensory pathways are therefore the routes used in the transmission of information from the external environment to the brain. There are various types of sensory pathways. They differ with regard to the location of the information transmitted. For instance, there are sensory pathways that transmit information from the body parts to the brain which are normally known as general somatic afferent (GSA) pathways.
The GSA pathways are responsible for the transmission of information concerning pain, temperature, touch, kinaesthesia, and pressure (Kolb and Whishaw, 2003). There are also sensory pathways that transmit information from the face to the brain. These will transmit information regarding pain, pressure, crude touch and temperature variation felt on the face. In addition to this are the special somatic afferent pathways, which are responsible for the transmission of specific information throughout the body.
The SSA pathways will transmit information through various systems such as the vestibular system, hearing and vision modalities. Finally yet importantly are the general visceral afferent pathways that transmit information to the nervous system through the spinal cord. The GVA pathways will transmit sensitive information such blood pressures, and alveolar stretches among others.
From the above discussion, it can be deduced that the sensory system is a vital system of the human body. In addition to helping in body senses, it helps in the consciousness of the brain.
Kandel, E. et al. (2000). Principles of Neural Science, 4th ed. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Kolb, B., and Whishaw, I.Q. (2003). Fundamentals of Human Neuropsychology. New York: Freeman.
Neil, Carson. (2010). Physiology of Behaviour. London: Prentice Hall.