What Is the Function of Meissner’s Corpuscles?

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Meissner’s corpuscles, also known as tactile corpuscles, are nerve endings that are responsible for detecting a light touch to the skin. The are considered a type of mechanoreceptor since they are responsive to physical pressure. Meissner’s corpuscles have the lowest sensitivity threshold of any type of mechanoreceptor; they can sense vibrations with frequencies as low as 10 Hertz.

The location of Meissner’s corpuscles is closely related with their function. They are found in the largest numbers in areas of the skin that are particularly sensitive to touch, such as the tips of the fingers and the genitalia. Their location just beneath the epidermis also contributes to their sensitivity. Each corpuscle is located in a small dermal papillae, a tiny projection of the epidermis that is visible under a microscope. Meissner’s corpuscles do not detect pain or deeper touches like poking. These tasks are left to other types of nerve endings.

As a person ages, the function of the Meissner’s corpuscles tends to decrease. The action potentials generated when a corpuscle is stimulated by a light touch become less powerful. This decrease in function is also related to an age-related decrease in the number of Meissner’s corpuscles in the skin. Since there is more distance between the nerve endings, the chance of one detecting a particular light touch decreases with age.