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The receptive field of a sensory neuron is a region of space in which the presence of a stimulus will alter the firing of that neuron. Receptive fields have been identified for neurons of the auditory system, the somatosensory system, and the visual system.
Large receptive fields allow the cell to detect changes over a wider area, but lead to a less precise perception. Thus, the fingers, which require the ability to detect fine detail, have many, densely packed mechanoreceptors with small receptive fields, while the back and legs, for example, have fewer receptors with large receptive fields. Receptors with large receptive fields usually have a "hot spot", an area within the receptive field (usually in the center, directly over the receptor) where stimulation produces the most intense response.