They are a type of nerve ending in the skin that is responsible for sensitivity to light touch. In particular, they have their highest sensitivity (lowest threshold) when sensing vibrations between 10 and 50 hertz. They are rapidly adaptive receptors. They are most concentrated in thick hairless skin, especially at the finger pads.
Meissner's corpuscles are encapsulated, unmyelinated nerve endings, surrounded by Schwann cells. The encapsulation consists of flattened supportive cells arranged as horizontal lamellae surrounded by a connective tissue capsule. They are found in abundance in the human foreskin.
They are distributed on various areas of the skin, but concentrated in areas especially sensitive to light touch, such as the fingers and lips. More specifically, they are primarily located in glabrous (non-hair bearing) skin just beneath the epidermis within the dermal papillae.
Taylor, Lockwood, & Taylor (1996) carried out a gross and histological examination of the prepuce. They reported that numerous Meissner's corpuscles are found in a ridged band area where the Meissner corpuscles are found near the tops of the ridges.
Cold & Taylor (1999) describe the innervation of the prepuce as follows:
Although the sensory and autonomic innervation of the penis and clitoris are similar, there is a remarkable difference in their encapsulated somatosensory receptors. Sensory receptors can be classiﬁed as mechanoreceptors, e.g. Meissner’s corpuscles, Vater-Pacinian corpuscles and Merkel cells; and nocioceptors (free nerve endings). A multitude of names have been used to describe these encapsulated receptors, e.g. Krause, Dogiel, genital corpuscles, Endkalpsen and muco-cutaneous end-organs, but the term corpuscular (encapsulated) receptors will be used here to include all of these mechanoreceptors. Most of the encapsulated receptors of the prepuce are Meissner corpuscles, as they contact the epithelial basement membrane.
Sorrells et al. (2007) used a Semmes-Weinstein monofilament touch-test to map the fine-touch pressure thresholds of the penis. The areas most sensitive to fine-touch were the tip of the foreskin the mucocutaneous junction, the ridged band, and the frenulum. These areas correspond to the location of Meissner's corpuscles. (These areas are not found on the circumcised penis.)
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