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The cells in the retina that respond to light stimuli are an example of a specialized receptor, a photoreceptor. Sensory neurons can have either (a) free nerve endings or (b) encapsulated endings.Photoreceptors in the eyes, such as rod cells, are examples of (c) specialized receptor cells.
The cells that interpret information about the environment can be either (1) a neuron that has a free nerve ending, with dendrites embedded in tissue that would receive a sensation; (2) a neuron that has an encapsulated ending in which the sensory nerve endings are encapsulated in connective tissue that enhances their sensitivity; or (3) a specialized receptor cell, which has distinct structural components that interpret a specific type of stimulus (Figure 1).
Stimuli in the environment activate specialized receptor cells in the peripheral nervous system.
Different types of stimuli are sensed by different types of receptor cells.
A major role of sensory receptors is to help us learn about the environment around us, or about the state of our internal environment.
Stimuli from varying sources, and of different types, are received and changed into the electrochemical signals of the nervous system.