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Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Tuesday Spotlight: Kemberlee Shortland

The Importance Of Senses

Now that we’ve learned about the importance of research, I’d like to discuss the importance of senses. When I say senses, what comes to mind first? Sight? Sound? Smell, taste, and touch? You’d be right. But what about the others? There are actually more than twenty senses, which are broken down into two categories: exteroception and interoception. Exteroceptive senses include the basic five senses: sight, sound, scent, taste, and touch, as defined by Aristotle. But have you ever heard of interoceptive senses? Here are a few to ponder:

Proprioception – While exteroceptors are responsible for information from outside the body such as the eyes, ears, mouth, and skin, and interoceptors give information about the internal organs, proprioception is awareness of movement derived from muscular, tendon, and articular sources. It is the sense that indicates whether the body is moving with required effort. Proprioreceptors are sometimes known as adequate stimuli receptors. A great example of this is the field sobriety test. Stand with your arms out to your sides, close your eyes, and with your finger, try to touch the tip of your nose. Easy enough when you’re sober, not so easy when you’re inebriated.

Kinaesthesia – This sense is, in a way, linked to proprioception. Kinaesthesia places a greater sense on motion through muscle, tendon, and articular sensitivity. Such as increased heart rate or adreniline. Consiously, one is unaware that these things are happening, but internal senses (the subconscience) that require additional movement will automatically trigger the receptors into action.

Nociception – This sense allows us to feel pain. When we say something hurts, how does it hurt? Nociception sense tells us. But this sense has a threshold. Very little stimulus is required to sense pain. But once the threshold is crossed and we experience excruciating pain, it becomes hyperalgesia—hyper meaning excessive or over and above norms.

Equilibrioception – Equil, as in equal, refers to balance. This sense is controlled by the inner ear and helps us walk straight. When one or both ears are damaged in some way, temporarily or permanently, it can affect how we move and behave. Other things to affect our sense of balance are weightlessness, seasickness, even a cold, all of which can, in turn, make us nauseous.

Thermoception – Thermo means temperature. This sense allows us to feel temperature differences, and is largely done by the skin. If you put your hand in a bucket of ice, thermoception tells us it’s extremely cold so we can react accordingly. To walk across hot coals, we must disrupt our thermoceptors so we don’t feel the pain, akin to biting the bullet.

Magnetoception – Magnet/Magneto refers to the ability to detect direction, altitude, and/or location. This sense is most especially seen in migratory animals, especially birds. And claims have been made that it’s magnetoception that allows animals to develop regional maps in their heads. For example: deer follow the same path through the forest. Even when the forest is removed and a house is built in the middle of that path, deer will leap shrubs and tear down fences in order to complete the path in their ingrained memories. Magnetoception is also common in humans who have a ‘good sense of direction.’

Sense of Time – aka: the perception of time, or the perception of significant times in a person's lifetime, not to be confused with memories. Although the sense of time is not associated with a specific sensory system, the work of scientists indicate that human brains have a system governing the perception of time. An example would be when our internal body clock wakes us at the same time every day.

Intuition – A form of perception. Have you ever just known something, or felt someone looking at you, or even senses when someone was in the room, but you didn’t hear them enter? Aka: a gut feeling. Intuition provides us with beliefs we can’t necessarily justify.

And the list goes on. Why have I talked about these senses rather than the basic five as defined by Aristotle? Because we all already know them. Sitting at your computer you experience the sight to read this article, touch by using your mouse to scroll the page, hearing if you have music playing in the background, taste and smell if you’re enjoying a snack while you read. But how many of the other senses have you experienced or related to while reading?

It’s important to mention these other senses, especially for our writing. Has your hero been shot? He’s probably going to be in a lot of pain if he’s conscious. That’s nociception. And it’s intuition that tells the heroine which way to run for help. If you’re writing a paranormal, it’s possible one of your characters can control his/her thermoreceptors, such as Johnny Storm in the Fantastic Four, aka: the Human Torch.

How will you use senses now that you know more about them?

My next topic is: W5+H+M. Tune in tomorrow to satisfy your curiousity!


Lisa said...

Hi Kemberlee,

Fascinating stuff. I've learned a little about proprioception and the vestibular senses because two of my children have special needs where sensory knowledge and intervention are required. But, honestly, I don't know all that much about the others. So many! Do you have a fave book or resource that talks about them? I'd love to know more...

Kemberlee said...

Hi Lisa,

I don't have a book, but if you google "interoceptive senses" you'll come up with loads of pages on the senses I talked about and some of the others. And of course, Wikipedia is always a great source...

I'm glad you're enjoying the articles!

robynl said...

wow, that was interesting; thanks for sharing.

Lisa said...

Thanks Kemberlee! I will check it out.