What Are Tactile Cells?


Quick Answer

Tactile cells, also called Merkel cells, are specialized skin cells that play a role in the nervous system's ability to perceive pressure. These disk-shaped cells are often found in association with sensory nerve endings, and experiments have shown their essential role in resolving the finer details of tactile stimuli.

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What Are Tactile Cells?
Credit: Ed Uthman CC-BY-2.0

Full Answer

Unlike many components of the tactile nervous system, Merkel cells show a sustained response to mechanical pressure. Other cells signal only when pressure is applied or lifted, but Merkel cells code continuously while their section of skin is in contact with a pressing force. This helps the nervous system detect texture differentials as small as 1 micrometer.

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