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All sensory receptors rely on one of these four capacities to detect changes in the environment, but may be tuned to detect specific characteristics of each to perform a specific sensory function. In some cases, the mechanism of action for a receptor is not clear. For example, hygroreceptors that respond to changes in humidity and osmoreceptors that respond to the osmolarity of fluids may do so via a mechanosensory mechanism or may detect a chemical characteristic of the environment.
Sensory receptors perform countless functions in our bodies. During vision, rod and cone photoreceptors respond to light intensity and color. During hearing, mechanoreceptors in hair cells of the inner ear detect vibrations conducted from the eardrum. During taste, sensory neurons in our taste buds detect chemical qualities of our foods including sweetness, bitterness, sourness, saltiness, and umami (savory taste). During smell, olfactory receptors recognize molecular features of wafting odors. During touch, mechanoreceptors in the skin and other tissues respond to variations in pressure.
Classification of Sensory Receptors
Adequate stimulus can be used to classify sensory
receptors. A sensory receptor's adequate
stimulus is the stimulus modality for which it possesses the
adequate sensory transduction apparatus.