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February 1956

THE CUTANEOUS SENSORY MODALITIES: A Critique of Their "Specificity"

Author Affiliations

San Francisco

From the Biomechanics Group and the Department of Neurology, University of California School of Medicine.

AMA Arch NeurPsych. 1956;75(2):203-219. doi:10.1001/archneurpsyc.1956.02330200097011
  • Introduction

  • Physical Stimuli

  • Sensory Spots and Nerve Endings

  • Nerve Fibers

  • Spinal Cord Tracts

  • Cerebral Representation of Sensation

  • General Considerations and a New Hypothesis

    • Classification of Function

    • Locoception

    • Intensity

    • Quality

      • Heat and Cold

      • Pain

  • Conclusion

ALTHOUGH Aristotle's enumeration of man's five special senses is no longer accepted without reservations and additions, most authorities deviate only little from that classical and popular account. Likewise, students are taught some versions of Johannes Müller's theory of specific nerve energies. Thus it is widely believed that, whatever the effective stimulus, a certain anatomically distinct sense organ will transmit to consciousness none but its own sensory quality.

The axiom of specificity is carried over to sensations other than vision, hearing, smell, and taste. By "other" we must understand all those superficial and deep sensations which have their receptors diffusely scattered throughout the body and over its surface, with the exception of the vestibular

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