What Are The Five Senses?

By Antonia Čirjak on July 3 2020 in Life

The five senses relay information to the brain about our environment.
The five senses relay information to the brain about our environment.
  • Humans have five basic senses that are used as our methods of perception. These senses are touch, sight, hearing, smell, and taste.
  • Many believe that the tongue has specific zones for each flavor, but this is a myth, since all parts of the tongue are able to sense all flavors.
  • Every person actually smells things differently, if only with small variations, due to the high number of genetic variations of our olfactory receptors.
  • Snakes use their jawbones to be able to hear since their inner ears are connected to the jawbone.

Humans have five basic senses that are used as our methods of perception. These senses are touch, sight, hearing, smell, and taste. By using these senses, we can perceive our surroundings and understand the world around us. These senses send information to our brain that processes this information and creates the final data we perceive.

Our sensory systems respond to different types of stimuli, which gives the data necessary for perception. Without these senses, life is generally much harder, although we have managed to find ways to help people that lack some of them and make their lives easier. These senses give us both sensation and perception, which are needed for us to be able to engage in any sort of thought, behavior, and cognition. In this article, we will further explore each of the five basic senses.

5. Taste

Human tongue structure.
Human tongue structure.

The sense of taste is commonly broken down into four primary tastes: sweet, sour, bitter, and salty. In recent times we have added a fifth taste, which is savory, or umami. There is a possibility that there are many other flavors, but we still haven’t discovered them yet. This would possibly make sense of taste the most mysterious one, out of all the five senses.

Some scientists claim that spicy is not actually a taste, but a pain signal, although this debate doesn’t have a clear answer. The sense of taste was incredibly crucial for the evolution of humans since it gave us the ability to test the food we were eating. By tasting different things, humans were able to determine which foods were rotten or even poisonous. We sense taste through our taste buds, the majority of which are on the tongue.

4. Smell

As humans, we can smell more than 1 trillion different scents.
As humans, we can smell more than 1 trillion different scents.

We use the olfactory cleft to be able to use our sense of smell. The olfactory cleft is found on the roof of the nasal cavity, which is near the part of our brain whose function is to smell. There are many nerve endings located in the olfactory cleft, and they transmit all of the smells to our brain, which then processes them.

Previously we were believed to be able to differentiate between 10,000 smells, but now we know that the actual number is 1 trillion different smells. We have 400 smelling receptors, and although that number might not be as high as in certain animal species, our brains are more complex, and they actually give humans the edge.

3. Hearing

The ear is an incredibly important part of our bodies.
The ear is an incredibly important part of our bodies.

Can you imagine the world without music? The sense of hearing works through a complex labyrinth that makes up the human ear. The sound gets funneled through the outer ear and goes through pipes to the external auditory canal, where the sound waves reach the tympanic membrane, also known as the eardrum.

The eardrum vibrates when it gets hit by sound, and these vibrations are then sent to the middle ear, where three small bones known as the malleus, incus, and stapes begin vibrating. These vibrations are then sent to the organ of Corti, also known as the spiral organ, which is the main receptor of hearing. Through tiny hairs found on this organ, vibrations are translated into electrical impulses that travel to the brain. The ear is an incredibly important part of our bodies, because not only does it regulate the sense of hearing, it also helps us keep balance.

2. Sight

The sense of sight is one of the more complex senses, but also the one we possibly use the most.
The sense of sight is one of the more complex senses, but also the one we possibly use the most.

The sense of sight is one of the more complex senses, but also the one we possibly use the most. It is the way we perceive things through our eyes, but despite it seeming incredibly simple, there is far more to it than it seems. The first part of this sense starts when the light reflects off of an object into our eye, which is followed by the bending of that light by the outer layer of our eyes called the cornea.

The light passes through the pupil, and comes to the lens which focuses the light, bends it, and places it on the retina. The retina is filled with nerve cells that are able to translate the light into colors, details, and central vision, as well as peripheral vision and motion. This information is finally sent to the brain. That is the simplified version of the process, but it is still hard to imagine that this is what happens whenever we open our eyes. Yet, it does, and sight is definitely one of the most important senses, definitely the most helpful.

1. Touch

Touch is often believed to be the first sense that develops in humans.
Touch is often believed to be the first sense that develops in humans.

Touch is often believed to be the first sense that develops in humans. There are several specific sensations that make up a touch, and these sensations get communicated to our brains through the neurons that can be found in our skin. There are many sensations that fall under the sense of touch, including temperature, pressure, vibration, and pain.

All of these sensations are connected to specific receptors in our skin. We do not use the sense of touch purely for interaction with the world either. According to recent research, touch can also convey specific emotions such as compassion or affection from one human to another. Touching has also been discovered as being able to influence how we make decisions since we often associate texture with many abstract thoughts and concepts.

There are many other minor senses besides these five most basic ones, including the sense of space, and more subtle neuron sensors that help us control balance, or receptors that detect when we stretch our muscles. However, the five basic senses are the most important ones. Even among them, there are differences in perception, because some people might see things in different ways, or even see sounds as colors, which is a condition called synesthesia.

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