Functional Anatomy of the Sensory Nervous System: Updates From the Neuroscience Bench

La Tasha K. Crawford, Michael J. Caterina

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


The simple tripartite classification of sensory neurons as A-beta, A-delta, and C fibers fails to convey the complexity of the neurons that encode stimuli as diverse as the texture of a surface, the location of a pinprick, or the direction of hair movement as a breeze moves across the skin. It has also proven to be inadequate when investigating the molecular mechanisms underlying pain, which can encompass any combination of chemical, tactile, and thermal modalities. Beginning with a brief overview of visceral and sensory neuroanatomy, this review expands upon sensory innervation of the skin as a prime example of the heterogeneity and complexity of the somatosensory nervous system. Neuroscientists have characterized defining features of over 15 subtypes of sensory neurons that innervate the skin of the mouse. This has enabled the study of cell-specific mechanisms of pain, which suggests that diverse sensory neuron subtypes may have distinct susceptibilities to toxic injury and different roles in pathologic mechanisms underlying altered sensation. Leveraging this growing body of knowledge for preclinical trials and models of neurotoxicity can vastly improve our understanding of peripheral nervous system dysfunction, advancing the fields of toxicologic pathology and neuropathology alike.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)174-189
Number of pages16
JournalToxicologic pathology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2020


  • peripheral nervous system
  • sensory neuron spinal cord neuropathology integumentary system pathobiology immunohistochemistry

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Molecular Biology
  • Toxicology
  • Cell Biology


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