A Full Guide on How Many Sensory Systems the Human Body Has
What are the senses?
Having a sense simply means having a perception of your environment. The environment exerts different types of stimuli to our bodies, and the sensory organs such as the eyes can capture and relay that information to the mind to make sense of it.
When we think of senses, we think of the five external sensory systems:
- Visual system — the sense of vision
- Auditory system — the sense of hearing
- Somatosensory system — the sense of touch
- Gustatory system — the sense of taste
- Olfactory system — the sense of smell
However, the human body has an extra system: the vestibular system, which gives the perception of balance and spatial orientation.
In addition to the external system, humans possess an internal system of perception, namely:
- Proprioception which perceives the body’s position
- Nociception which captures the pain
- Chemoreception which detects changes in blood oxygen levels
- Osmoreception which detects osmotic pressure and helps us perceive hunger, thirst, and vomiting
How are Human Senses Beneficial For Survival?
Simply put, once the nociceptors (pain receptor) in the skin (sensory organ) perceive a stimulus such as pain from a bee sting, the information is encoded and transduced. This process is called sensory modality, where the sense of touch could sense both temperature and pressure — in this case, pain from extreme pressure — and relay the sensory information to the brain through the nervous system. A proper response, such as flicking the arm, is immediately initiated to the muscles.
The advantage of the complexity of the human brain is that it practices multimodality; that is, it can multitask all the senses at once without us even realizing it. The ability to integrate all our senses to have a unified perceptual experience is a crucial ingredient to survival. It means that not only can the human body distinguish between pain from dehydrating skin in the sun with pain from a stab wound, but also it can combine all the senses at once to immerse us into our environment.
I do agree that having the ability to sense different stimuli altogether with its rapid speed is fantastic, but doesn’t the brain ever get confused?
The Brain and Its Complexities
Cognitive and psychological studies have shown that overlap in the neural pathways of the brain could lead to people hearing color from paintings and some associating notes from a piano to specific colors.
While this is rare, it is not false, and it goes to show how the growing brain is vital in shaping who you become, both physically and physiologically.
Bruce M. Hood, the writer of the Science of Superstition, dives deep into examining how the developing brain helps us understand how our minds create supernatural beliefs. The cognitive psychologist calls the unseen sense, Supersense: a bias that we develop when we are young to believe in the irrational and unbelievable.
The Supersense is reinforcing, just like the pigeon cage experiment conducted by B.F.Skinner, where a pigeon would continue doing the last action they did before food dropped in the hopper. The food, albeit dropped to the cage at constant or random intervals, the pigeons reinforced their superstitious belief the more the food dropped.
The trick is to not believe in the fallacies of superstition too much to the extent that can hurt you, such as placing bets on horses based on intuition. But, believe it enough to reassure your mind and reduce anxiety (lucky handkerchief that can boost confidence before a performance).
“Change the way you look at things and the things you look at change.”
― Wayne W. Dyer
Thank you for reading to the end. I appreciate every feedback.