Many Senses

This post may be a bit technical for most of my readers. However, I am fascinated by the human senses, and frequently explore them within my own body. I have long maintained that there are far more senses than generally thought, and this post is about that idea.

First, let’s define what I mean by a sense. In my view, a sense has the following characteristics:

  • It allows us to gain information about the outside world. In that way, a sense is effectively a portal between us and the physical universe in some way.
  • Typically, a sense has a dedicated area of the brain to moderate its needs. In some cases, (such as sight), the sense is so complex that multiple areas of the brain are involved. Often, the use of different areas of the brain is a clue that a particular sense is separate from another sense. This is the case with the sense of touch (or what I call tactile sensation) and the related senses of body sensation and sexual sensation.
  • Senses generally result in sensations that we can experience consciously. That is, we are aware that we are experiencing this sensation. This is certainly true of sexual sensation, for example!
  • Frequently (but not always), a distinct organ of the body is associated with one or more senses. For example, the ears not only take care of hearing, but also balance.

In my own body see at least the following senses at work in my own life:

  • Sight (of course). This is undoubtedly the primary sense for humans, and I certainly rely on it heavily. It is far more complex than most people realize. More on this later.
  • Hearing (of course).
  • Taste (of course).
  • Smell (of course). Again, though, the sense of smell is a bit more complex than folks realize, and is certainly closely related to the previous sense, taste. Actually, most of the sensations that we experience when we eat are smells, not tastes.
  • Tactile sensation. Note that I do not call this sense “touch”. There are very good reasons for this. See the next sense for some reasons why.
  • Sexual sensation. Again, very distinct from what we normally call the sense of “touch”. However, sexual sensations are regulated by a completely different area of the brain from the normal sense of tactile sensation that we feel continuously throughout the day. Sexual sensation only fires if there is sufficient stimulation to cause the release of oxytocin, a neurohormone with fascinating implications for health.
  • Body sensation, often referred to as the sense of pain. Interestingly, the sense of pain is referred to as a sense, but is not typically included in the sense list which we learn in school. Odd. However, body sensation is definitely a separate sense, according to the definition above. Certainly, it uses a completely different area of the brain than tactile sensation. Oddly, the sense of body sensation shares much of the wiring (referred to as the parasympathetic nervous system) with the sense of sexual sensation.
  • Balance. This is a very interesting and complex sense. We definitely use a distinct area of the brain to handle this sense, and we also have an organ in the inner ear which assists with this sense.
  • Duration, commonly referred to as the sense of time. Again, this is often called a sense, but is left off of the typical “five senses” list we learn in school. Which is obviously incomplete, as we see above!

There is probably a spiritual sense as well, but of course I cannot prove that. I have certainly experienced the spiritual sense in my own life, though. More later.

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