The breeze, the touch of the fingertip, even a simple feather resting on our arm … all this exquisitely detailed sensory information is received by our brain thanks to the corpuscles of Meissner and those of Pacini .
Meissner’s detect the slightest friction, and are very abundant in our erogenous zones and other very sensitive areas, such as the fingertips, lips or tongue.
Meissner receptors are named after the German anatomist Georg Meissner , who is credited with their discovery in 1852. The corpuscle is 30 to 140 microns long and 40 to 61 µm in diameter.
The touch of deep pressure (of a squeeze for example) is generated by the corpuscles of Pacini (in mammals the only other type of physical touch mechanoceptor), which are located deeper in the dermis. Pacini’s are even more spectacular, as Bill Bryson explains in his book The Human Body :
A Pacini corpuscle can detect a movement of only 0.00001 millimeters, which in practice amounts to not moving at all.
Corpuscles of Pacini are found, for example, in the subcutaneous connective tissue and in the reticular dermis and are especially numerous in the hand and foot. They are also found in the periosteum, interosseous membranes, mesentery, pancreas, and sexual organs.
Women have more tactile sensitivity in their fingers, but this is probably because their hands are smaller and therefore have a denser sensor network.
In total, touch encompasses five different sensations associated with a certain class of receptors. The various receptors have been called by the name of their discoverers:
- Pacini’s corpuscles for pressure (Filippo Pacini, Italian, 1830).
- Meissner’s corpuscles for touch (Georg Meissner, German, 1853).
- Krause’s Terminal Bulbs for Cold (Wilhelm Krause, German, 1860).
- The endings for the Ruffini heat (Angelo Ruffini, Italian, 1898).