You have more than five senses | Sunday Observer

You have more than five senses

20 November, 2022

We have been taught that there are five basic senses: taste, touch, sight, hearing and smell. We also have five corresponding organs: tongue, skin, eyes, ears and nose. In addition, we have a sixth sense or intuition for which there is no organ.

The celebrated Greek philosopher Aristotle was the first person to describe the five senses more than 2,000 years ago. However, modern researchers have unlocked the deepest secrets of our senses and how they work. The new senses may not have been known to Aristotle. Dr Gordon Shepherd, the Yale University Professor of Neurobiology said, “We also have a sense of balance which orients our body in a world of gravity, of up and down, just as surely as our eyes let us perceive a world with light.”

All these years we were happy to use our five senses to perceive the world. Researchers have surprised us by discovering new secondary senses called ‘sensory submodalities.’ In a way, this is an extension of the five senses. Shepherd said that we may be having 20 or more distinct senses. This still remains a conservative figure.

When a mother kisses her baby, her touch may come from a variety of sensory organs. Your skin is a sensory organ which can sense vibrations from ten to 10,000 cycles per second. This may appear to be something unbelievable. If you listen to loud rock music, the sound waves will impact your skin putting your ears at risk of damage. Very often a mother can detect the slightest degree in the temperature by placing her lips on the baby’s forehead.

Pain signals

You may have experienced pain in different situations. If you cut your finger or when a tooth is extracted, you will feel pain. Pain signals are usually carried to the brain. However, there are ways to reduce the pain. For instance, before a tooth is extracted, the dentist will perform his task under local anaesthetic. When he does so, the brain’s pain signals will be diluted.

The ears are important sensory organs. They provide a stereo sense that helps the brain to judge where and how far away things are. According to neuroscientists, even ears can blink like your eyes. Three interconnected bones in the middle ear transfer sound energy from the eardrum to the inner ear. When you hear a sudden loud noise, the muscles holding the three bones tighten to reduce the impact. It is one way of protecting the ear.

Like the eyes, you can focus your ears on certain occasions. This will help you to zero in on a single voice at a noisy party. It has been discovered that most blind people can use echoes of their own sounds to determine where certain objects are placed.

Taste buds

The tongue is another important sensory organ. We know that there are about 10,000 taste buds on your tongue and the roof of your mouth. Each bud has 50 to 75 taste cells. It was believed that we had different cells to feel the four basic tastes such as salty, sweet, sour and bitter. Today, scientists say the cells can exhibit a kind of mixed sensitivity. Certain cells concentrate at the front of the tongue. They are sensitive to salty or sweet tastes. Cells on the sides of the tongue are sensitive to sour taste and those at the back of the tongue are bitter-sensitive areas.

The nose is the organ of smell. However, it appears that taste and smell overlap. We experience the taste of certain food using the tongue and the nose. Strangely, the flavour comes from your sense of smell. The nose has nearly ten million scent cells. An average person can identify 4,000 different scents. In the perfume industry, professionals use their noses to identify more than 10,000 odours. In a way, smell is a mysterious sense. Scientists believe that the scent cells in your nose contain a variety of receptors.

Sometimes your eyes can play tricks. While you are travelling on a train, you see another train on the other track going in the same direction. When the other train passes yours, you feel that your train is going backwards. Such optical illusions occur because the brain is constantly matching its model of reality to signals from the body’s sensors.

Your sensory memory briefly holds the input from all your senses. At any one time, there is much incoming information that the sensory memory retains it just long enough for your brain to sort out what is useful and discard the rest.

All your senses are points of contact with the environment. They bring us pleasure, pain, experience and information. However, much of our sensing ability dies unused. On the other hand, animals have a sharper sense than humans.

Sometimes we do not hear the sounds a dog or a cat can hear. However, we can sharpen our senses by moving into a different environment. If you happen to walk through a dense forest, you will hear the sounds of life, see different colours and smell unfamiliar smells. If you walk barefoot on the beach, you will feel the sand trickling between your toes.

Full capacity

In a big city, our senses often seem dull, unused and we lose our contact with present reality. Our senses too are affected by feelings. At their full capacity, our senses are extraordinary. We can distinguish between a half - and a quarter – tone in music and, by touching someone’s forehead, we can tell whether their body temperature has increased.

Meditation helps you to develop your sensory awareness through especially selected methods. It also helps your responsiveness and sensitivity. With some practice, you can extend what you have learned into your day-to-day activities through sharpening your perceptions.

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