In the world of neuroscience, researchers and instructors have developed the “homunculus” to show through exaggerated size those areas of the human body which we know to have a greater representation of neurons in the somatosensory cortex in the brain, the main sensory receptive area for the sense of touch. Check out the image at right.
The Horse-unculus is a model developed by HorseHead & BestHorsePractices to illustrate through exaggerated size and shining light those areas which we know to be more sensitive, ie, having a greater representation in the somatosensory cortex of the horse’s brain.
Areas of high sensitivity include the entire head, but also specifically:
- muzzle area (which is loaded with vibrissae, or whiskers, each of which has its own nerve)
These areas are densely populated with sensory nerves and are all represented by larger portions of the somatosensory cortex.
Other areas with greater representation:
- lower flank
- coronet band (where the hoof wall meets the hairline)
These are additional areas that have greater representation in this part of the brain. The horse-unculus highlights through exaggerated size and brighter color those noted areas.
It’s helpful to be aware and considerate of these extra sensitive areas when working with our horses.