Types of Sensory Receptors – MCAT Psychology | MedSchoolCoach

Types of Sensory Receptors

MCAT Psychology - Chapter 1- Section 1 - Senses & Perception - Senses
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Sample MCAT Question - Types of Sensory Receptors

Which two types of sensory receptors detect body processes related to pressure?

a) Mechanoreceptors and proprioceptors

b) Mechanoreceptors and baroreceptors

c) Baroreceptors and proprioceptors

d) Chemoreceptors and mechanoreceptors

B is correct, Mechanoreceptors detect mechanical forces like touch, pressure, and stretching. Baroreceptors respond to blood pressure. These two receptors detect body processes related to pressure. Answer choice A is incorrect because proprioceptors detect motion and body and limb position. Answer choice C is incorrect for the same reason as answer choice A. Answer choice D is incorrect because chemoreceptors respond to chemical substances, not pressure.

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Types of Sensory Receptors for the MCAT

Sensory receptors play a vital role in our ability to perceive and interpret the world around us. These specialized structures, located throughout our body, are responsible for detecting and transducing various types of stimuli into electrical signals that our nervous system can process. There are five main categories of sensory receptors: 


Mechanoreceptors respond to mechanical stimuli, such as pressure, vibration, and touch, enabling us to sense physical contact with objects and perceive textures. 


Chemoreceptors detect chemical changes in our environment and are involved in our sense of taste and smell. 


Thermoreceptors are responsible for sensing temperature variations and maintaining our body’s thermoregulation. 


Photoreceptors are found in our eyes and are sensitive to light, allowing us to perceive visual information. 


Nociceptors are responsible for detecting pain and potential tissue damage. 


By understanding the different types of sensory receptors, we gain insight into how our body collects and interprets sensory information, providing a foundation for studying perception, sensory processing, and the remarkable capabilities of the human sensory system.


Baroreceptor cells detect pressure. For example, the baroreceptor cells in your circulatory system are able to detect high blood pressure or low blood pressure. In response to the activation of baroreceptor cells, the body is able to trigger homeostatic responses that bring the blood pressure back to normal levels


Mechanoreceptors detect mechanical forces. For example, mechanoreceptors in the skin can detect touch, pressure, and stretching. Hair cells are the auditory mechanoreceptors of the ear that respond to sound waves.


Chemoreceptors detect chemical substances. For example, the olfactory receptors produce smell by detecting various chemicals in air. Another example would be the gustatory receptor cells that produce the sensation of taste by also detecting various chemicals in food. 


Photoreceptors detect light. Within the retina of our eyes, we have two different types of photoreceptors. Cone cells are responsible for the high acuity detection of different colors of light. Rod cells are responsible for the detection of low intensity, grey-scale light. In dim light situations, you can barely see colors like blue, green, and red, and instead, most objects appear in black and white. This is because under situations of low light intensity, cone cells are not activated, but rods are activated, and we can perceive objects in grayscale.


Thermoreceptors are for detecting temperature. Within our body are nerve endings that detect temperature change, low temperatures, and high temperatures. Incidentally, many of these nerve endings responsible for detecting temperature have binding sites for the chemical capsaicin, the molecule in spicy foods that makes them hot. That’s why when you eat spicy foods, your body might feel warmer.


Nociceptors are free nerve endings responsible for pain detection. Noxious stimuli can include extreme temperatures, extreme mechanical forces, and certain chemical substances. 


Proprioceptors detect movement and the position your body is in. For instance, when you’re in an elevator, when the elevator goes up or goes down, you’re able to detect that motion. Additionally, proprioceptors help your mind keep track of the position of your body. If you close your eyes, you’re able to take your finger and touch your nose. Despite not being able to see your arm, finger, or nose, the proprioceptors in your body allow you to detect the position of your limbs in space, and you can construct a mental picture of where you are that guides your movement.

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