Human Senses

A sense is a physiological capacity of organisms that provides data for perception. The senses and their operation, classification, and theory are overlapping topics studied by a variety of fields, most notably neuroscience, cognitive psychology (or cognitive science), and philosophy of perception. The nervous system has a specific sensory nervous system, and a sense organ, dedicated to each sense.

Humans have a multitude of senses. Sight (vision), hearing (audition), taste (gustation), smell (olfaction), and touch (somatosensation) are the five traditionally recognized senses. The ability to detect other stimuli beyond those governed by these most broadly recognized senses also exists, and these sensory modalities include temperature (thermoception), kinesthetic sense (proprioception), pain (nociception), balance (equilibrioception), vibration (mechanoreception), and various internal stimuli (e.g. the different chemoreceptors for detecting salt and carbon dioxide concentrations in the blood). However, what constitutes a sense is a matter of some debate, leading to difficulties in defining what exactly a distinct sense is, and where the borders between responses to related stimuli lay. This process is called sensory transduction.

There are two broad types of cellular systems that perform sensory transduction. In one, a neuron works with a sensory receptor, a cell, or cell process that is specialized to engage with and detect a specific stimulus. Stimulation of the sensory receptor activates the associated afferent neuron, which carries information about the stimulus to the central nervous system. In the second type of sensory transduction, a sensory nerve ending responds to a stimulus in the internal or external environment: this neuron constitutes the sensory receptor itself. Free nerve endings can be stimulated by several different stimuli, thus showing little receptor specificity. For example, pain receptors in your gums and teeth may be stimulated by temperature changes, chemical stimulation, or pressure.

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