2014 Sensory Physiology

Lecture objectives for general principles & chemosensation

At the end of these lectures, you should be able to:


  1. Distinguish among the processes of transduction, transmission and perception as related to information processing in sensory systems.  In particular, be able to define transduction and outline the generic steps in the transduction process. Differentiate between sensation and perception.

  2. Define the terms sensory unit and receptive field.

  3. Identify the 2 core principles underlying the specificity of receptors that led to the definition of an adequate stimulus.  Identify six major special senses and their corresponding adequate stimuli, and be able to list several examples of "non-special" senses.

  4. Define threshold, saturation and dynamic range.  Contrast the principles of frequency vs. population coding of stimulus intensity.

  5. Define adaptation, and describe the differences between phasic and tonic receptors.

  6. Define acuity, and outline how receptor density and receptive field size determine the acuity of a sensory system.

  7. Define lateral inhibition, and be able to diagram a neuronal circuit that enables lateral inhibition to occur.  Explain how lateral inhibition resolves the paradox between the encoding of the location and of the amplitude of a stimulus.


  1. Outline the current system for defining olfactory stimuli.  Detail the steps in the olfactory transduction processCompare the evidence in support of labelled line processing of olfactory information with the data that indicate that olfactory stimuli are encoded by patterns of activity.

  2. Define the 5 types of gustatory stimuli, and compare and contrast the molecular mechanisms that transduce those stimuli.

  3. Categorize the major types of chemosensory disorders, and be able to define the “osmias” and “geusias”.  Identify major causes of peripheral, neuroepithelial and central chemosensory disorders.

Email: Dr. Janet Fitzakerley | ©2014 University of Minnesota Medical School Duluth | Last modified: 4-feb-14 8:26 PM