Science Questions with Surprising Answers
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Dr. Christopher S. Baird

What are the five senses of the human body?

Category: Biology      Published: December 16, 2012

By: Christopher S. Baird, author of The Top 50 Science Questions with Surprising Answers and Associate Professor of Physics at West Texas A&M University

girl doing handstand
This girl is sure grateful there are more than fives senses, as her sense of balance is crucial to her gymnastics. Public Domain Image, source: Christopher S. Baird.

There are not just five senses in a human body. A healthy human can sense its environment and its internal state through dozens of channels. Eyesight provides the most information to the brain per second and is the most important sense. The second most information-rich sense is hearing. Next up comes the sense of touch. But what is commonly called the sense of touch is actually a group of many independent senses including: hot, cold, pressure, pain, itching, and tingling. Each of these senses has its own receptor and therefore its own unique path to the brain, as explained in the textbook "Psychology: Concepts and Applications" by Jeffrey S. Nevid. Furthermore, there are actually three different types of pain senses: skin pain, joint pain, and organ pain. The sense of smell and taste are the other two common senses most people think of. The senses perhaps most valued by athletes are the senses of linear and angular accelerations, which are carried out by the inner ear. These senses are commonly known as "balance". The kinesthetic sense is the body's ability to sense where its limbs are even with the lights off. Other senses with unique nerve pathways include stretching, suffocation, nausea, hunger, thirst, blushing, choking, and the need to urinate and defecate. Each of these dozens of senses plays a role in keeping us alive, well maintained, and interacting with our environment.

Topics: balance, five senses, hearing, how many senses, receptors, senses, smell, taste, touch, vision