Top Myths #7 – We only have five senses

7. We have five senses.
Smithsonian: Sure, sight, smell, hearing, taste and touch are the big ones. But we have many other ways of sensing the world and our place in it. Proprioception is a sense of how our bodies are positioned. Nociception is a sense of pain. We also have a sense of balance—the inner ear is to this sense as the eye is to vision—as well as a sense of body temperature, acceleration and the passage of time.

Compared with other species, though, humans are missing out. Bats and dolphins use sonar to find prey; some birds and insects see ultraviolet light; snakes detect the heat of warmblooded prey; rats, cats, seals and other whiskered creatures use their “vibrissae” to judge spatial relations or detect movements. By the way, have you seen the taste map of the tongue, the diagram showing that different regions are sensitive to salty, sweet, sour or bitter flavors? Also a myth.

RCG: What is interesting about these other senses is how they are related to the primitive Reptilian system – pain, balance, position. When our sense of pain or position is tweaked, our amygdala kicks in and we go into Fight, Flight or Freeze response. Time, however, is a curious one. David Eagleman, in his recent book “Incognito,” talks about time as a “rubbery thing.” His research demonstrates how the unconscious brain edits our experience and plays with our sense of time to protect us, to make more efficient use of our energy or to alter our perception of danger.

Our sense of time also is influenced by how engaged our Neocortex is in the task before us. When our Reptilian and Limbic systems are calmed and the Neocortex is in charge, we experience time flying by while simultaneously “lasting forever.” Why is that? I’m not sure enough research has been done yet to answer that question!

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