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Image of the Week: Temperature receptor in the skin

29 May, 2015

N0019487 Normal anatomy, temperature receptor in skin

This week our Image of the Week comes from Carly Dakin, Clinical Collection Coordinator at Wellcome Images

There’s a fine art to our skin.

Whilst looking through the Wellcome Images collection for examples of skin disease and skin anatomy, I came across this rather unique illustration of a temperature receptor and it reminded me of a certain 1893 oil painting.

Whether it was the artist’s intention or not I don’t know, but although different in colour, the energy, patterning and proportion are what gives the image it’s likeness to Norwegian painter Evard Munch’s The Scream.

The illustration shows the histology of the skin, the microscopic details of the tissue and cells. The cutaneous receptors are part of the sympathetic nervous system and function to sense temperature changes forcing the body via a nerve impulse to react to any change be it one of warmth or of cooling.

Should the receptor sense a drop in relative temperature the hairs on the skin might also stand on end as a result of the nerve impulse. In doing so the body is trying to trap and conserve heat close to the skin in order to keep it insulated. This is sometimes referred to as Piloerection.

We associate these nerve impulses with the ‘fight or flight’ feeling typically felt by a person suffering from fear and anxiety, coincidentally Munch’s screaming figure has been described by many including the artist himself as the very embodiment of fear and anxiety. So actually the two works of art can be linked by more than just aesthetics.

Image credit: Normal anatomy, temperature receptor in skin; Colour artwork, histology of tissues; Medical Art Service, Munich/Wellcome Images CC-BY-NC-ND

One Comment leave one →
  1. 1 Jun, 2015 9:46 am

    Reblogged this on Surgeons' Hall Museum.

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