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Monday, June 27, 2016

Making Sense of Senses

Taste Buds    (Gray's Anatomy)

When it comes to senses, why limit yourself to five?  It makes far more sense to embrace 21 capabilities.

Researchers have said that there are actually 21 human senses.  Aristotle’s original five (sight, sound, taste, touch and smell) just doesn’t cover all the bases.  Take taste, for instance.  It’s not just one homogeneous experience.  Instead, there are taste receptors for salty, sweet, bitter, sour and umami.  U-what?  “Umami” detects “the amino acid glutamate, which is a taste generally found in meat and some artificial flavoring.”

Then there's touch, which is qualitatively different from itch, pressure, pain and temperature sensitivities.  And how about equilibrioception?  If it weren’t for that sense of balance and body movement, we’d all be toppling over.

For lovers of multisyllabic senses, here's another:  proprioception.  This refers to “the ability to tell where your body parts are relative to other body parts,” and comes in handy when you need to secretly scratch an itch.

As for nociception, that's simply the ability to sense pain.  Not everyone’s favorite experience, but a vital survival mechanism.  Touching a hot stove without it could become a burning issue.

Sensing the need for nutrition is commonly called “hunger.”  Sensing the need for hydration is commonly called “thirst.”   The ability to detect magnetic fields, which is far stronger in birds, nevertheless exists in humans.  This is known as “magnetoception.”   


Copyright June 27, 2016 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

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