The Cortical Homunculus

One of the causes of chronic pain is damage done to the somatosensory system. This is a complex system of receptor sensor nerves mapped out across the body. These receptors are found on your hands, your lips, your feet, your skin, as well as through your internal organs. It is a system that helps us touch things and appreciate different kinds of tactile experiences. It is what tells us fire is hot, ice is cold, cacti are prickly, and kisses are pleasurable.

One of the most sensible yet intriguing ways to depict this is via 3d model of a human person – albeit at first sight, you probably wouldn’t think this looked anything like a person. Say hello to the Cortical Homunculus.


This very-odd shaped person might be a dead ringer for Gollum‘s long-lost brother, but the hyper-enlarged hands, feet, lips and even genitals do have a reason. This homunculus maps out how many receptors a person has in those areas, thus making them much more sensitive than another body part.

photo credit: Son of Groucho via photopin cc