Neurons In The Skin Can Think: Found By Researchers

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A laboratory assistant holds one hemisphere of a healthy brain
A laboratory assistant holds one hemisphere of a healthy brain in the Morphological unit of psychopathology in the Neuropsychiatry division of the Belle Idee University Hospital in Chene-Bourg near Geneva March 14, 2011. Reuters/Denis Balibouse

A study by the Faculty of Medicine at the Umea University in Sweden has found that neurons in the skin have the ability to think. 

It was assumed that our nervous system is a network of data-collecting sensors that sends data to the brain for it to be processed but it looks like this assumption could be wrong.

It was thought that only the brain could do advanced calculations, but now it was found that even neurons in the skin can perform them, reported. The skin has a feature that enables the nerve fibers to form fields of reception and high-sensitive zones. This allows it to perform calculations of geometric data just by itself.

The study that was published in the journal Nature Neuroscience by authors, J Andrew Pruszynski and Roland S Johansson last Sep. 3. The study showed that the branching gives way for neurons to send signals to the brain telling it that something has touched the skin in addition to processing geometric data about the object as well. 

Andrew Pruszynski said that the findings mean that human's touch experiences are processed by neurons in the skin before it reaches the brain for further processing.

This discovery has the ability to change approaches in rehabilitation after a nerve injury. Currently, people were under the assumption that the cerebral cortex is the main working part in the system.

Pruszynski explained that after a nerve injury, when one is working towards regrowing the peripheral nerves in order to recover the function of touch, it is important to consider two things. One of it is to see how many neurons have to be grown back and the other one is to see how the neurons grow back as it is critical to the type of information that they pass on to the brain. 

It was also noted that the sensitivity of the neurons to shape of stimuli is dependent on the levels of sensitivity on the different areas of skin. Hundred billion of brain cells are present in humans, in which a neuron fires 200 times every second. 

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