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I am interested in understanding how pain receptors send signals to the somatosensory cortex (the part of the brain that registers various nerve signals such as pain, presure, temperatures, etc).

Specifically, I'm interested in whether or not two distinct nerves/receptors share, or don't share, "channels of communication" to the cortex.

For example, say I touch the very tip of my finger to a hot stove, and, say, only 10 "temperature-sensing nerves" are triggered to transmit pain signals to my brain:

  • Do each of these 10 nerves send 10 distinct signals to my brain, traveling down 10 completely 10 channels?; or
  • Do each of these 10 nerves send 10 distinct signals to, say, my spinal cord, where they are then combined into 1 large pain signal and forwarded on to the brain?; or
  • Something else entirely?

Here's an awful illustration of the question I'm asking:

enter image description here

In Scenario #1, both nerves send 2 distinct signals to the brain, and those signals are kept distinct/isolated throughout the course of their entire journey to the brain.

In Scenario #2, both nerves send 2 distinct signals to the spinal cord, but the spine then combines them and only forwards 1 signal on to the brain.

I''m sure in reality it's neither of these scenarios, and is something much more complex. But I'm curious and want to know!

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The first layer of sensory integration from neural interconnection lies in the spinal dorsal horns (for somatosensory stimuli), and the spinal anterolateral system (for painful stimuli). It resembles option #2 much more than option #1.

Addenda: Since you are asking a lot about neuroanatomy and neurophysiology, I suggest those 2 beginner books:

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