The sense of touch is more of a mystery than that of hearing, smell, sight or taste. Perhaps that’s why more songs have been written about it (“Smell Me in the Morning” just doesn’t have the same ring.) But now scientists have unlocked one secret about how it works using only a fruit fly and an eyelash.
Researchers at the University of California in San Francisco have identified the precise subset of nerve cells responsible for transmitting gentle touch to the brains of Drosophila, or fruit fly, larvae. They’re called class III neurons. At the spiky end of these nerve cells one particular protein, NOMPC, apparently dominates. This molecule appears to be critical in communicating the type of touch a nerve senses.
Tactile perception has long been the most complicated of the senses to study, yet it’s a strong candidate for being…
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