Sensory neuron

From Academic Kids

Sensory neurons are nerve cells within the nervous system responsible for converting external stimuli from the organism's environment into internal electrical impulses. For example, some sensory neurons respond to tactile stimuli and can activate motor neurons in order to achieve muscle contraction. Such connections between sensory and motor neurons underlie motor reflex loops and several forms of involuntary behavior, including pain avoidance. In humans, such reflex circuits are commonly located in the spinal cord.

In more complex organisms, sensory neurons relay their information to the central nervous system or in less complex organisms, such as the hydra, directly to motor neurons. In complex organisms like humans most sensory neurons also transmit information to the brain, where it can be further processed and acted upon. For example, olfactory sensory neurons make synapses with neurons of the olfactory bulb, where the sense of olfaction (smell) is processed. This information can be used by organisms to make decisions on whether to eat a particular piece of food, or whether a potential partner is ready to mate.

At the molecular level, sensory receptors located on the cell membrane of sensory neurons are responsible for the conversion of stimuli into electrical impulses. The type of receptor employed by a given sensory neuron determines the type of stimuli it will be sensitive to. For example, neurons containing mechanoreceptors are sensitive to tactile stimuli, while olfactory receptors make a cell sensitive to odors.

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