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Ability to detect and respond to mechanical stimuli in one's environment. A slight deformation of a mechanoreceptive neuron causes an electric charge at its surface, activating a response. Mechanoreceptors in pain spots (pressure points) in the skin (probably clusters of nerve endings) vary in sensitivity. They respond to a wide range of stimuli, sometimes with a reflex (e.g., a pricked finger pulled away before the brain registers pain). The structures that respond to sound (seeear), sense orientation with respect to gravity (seeinner ear), or detect the position and movement of limbs (seeproprioception) are mechanoreceptors. Some animals have mechanoreceptors that detect water motion or air currents. See alsosense.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on mechanoreception, visit Britannica.com.