What Is the Sensory Cortex?

Cheryl Myers

The sensory cortex is part of a collective group of divisions in the brain called the somatosensory cortex. Each of these divisions is responsible for certain functions, such as vision or auditory, sensory or olfactory functions. The sensory cortex has the responsibility of sensing and perceiving information that it receives from the various divisions.

Brain damage can directly affect the functions of the sensory cortex.
Brain damage can directly affect the functions of the sensory cortex.

Neurons, or nerve cells, provide information to the sensory cortex about stimuli that the body receives. Nerve cells can relay this information from any part of the body, such as the skin, muscles, joints and tendons. After the sensory cortex receives the information, the division will interpret the information, and a perception is then formed.

Disorders of the sensory cortex may make a person more sensitive to external input, as is the case with a hypersensitivity to sounds.
Disorders of the sensory cortex may make a person more sensitive to external input, as is the case with a hypersensitivity to sounds.

Communication between the divisions is constantly taking place and is necessary for the sensory cortex to formulate a solid perception. For instance, the vision department of the somatosensory cortex receives information after one looks at a piece of art. The vision department exchanges this information with the sensory division, which causes the person to form an opinion on the artwork.

Neurons provide information to the sensory cortex about stimuli that the body receives.
Neurons provide information to the sensory cortex about stimuli that the body receives.

Interpreting pressure perception and discriminating different types of touch or texture are also roles of the sensory cortex. It allows the person to tell the difference between holding a child’s hand and grasping a shovel or rake. Damage to the sensory division could result in not being able to distinguish the difference between the slight brush of a passing stranger and the feel of strong winds against the skin.

The perception of sounds is another role of the sensory cortex. A person is able to tell the difference between the voice of family members and the sounds of church bells. Damage to the sensory auditory cortex might cause speech impediments or difficulty understanding language.

Receiving information from scents and odors is a primary role of the olfactory division. The information is then communicated to the sensory cortex, where the brain interprets the smell as pleasing or pleasant. An impairment of the olfactory nerves could cause an inability to detect pleasurable food scents, which could cause mild to severe problems with eating.

Damage to areas of the body other than a part of the brain also could cause sensory impairments. Nerve cells that are damaged can cause an impaired sensory perception. For example, bones and nerves in the ear transfer messages to the brain, and an impairment to ear structures can cause a change in perception of sound.

Receiving information about scents and odors is the primary job of the olfactory sense.
Receiving information about scents and odors is the primary job of the olfactory sense.

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