Did You Know You Have More Than 5 Senses?
The Greek philosopher and scientist Aristotle was the first to define the human senses. In his treatise “De sensu et sensibilibus” (On The Sense and Sensible), he connected four physical senses with an element. Sight was associated with water because of water in the eyes; sound corresponded to air; smell related to fire, and touch was grounded in the Earth.
By Shakespeare’s time, a fifth sense had been added: the sense of taste. There were also “inward wits,“ that described common sense, imagination, fantasy, estimation and memory.
Today, we still say that people have 5 senses, but the truth is that we operate in our daily lives using far more than just the basic five.
Some of these additional senses are more common for everyone, while others are rare and only occur in some people.
Here are 10 additional senses humans possess.
1. Sense of Danger
Have you ever seen a dog growl and raise the fur along its back for what seems like no reason at all? It’s because it senses something threatening. Human beings may have this ability as well. If you’ve ever seen someone and felt uneasy for no apparent reason, that was your sense of danger speaking.
A sense of danger is born in everyone, but it may be more pronounced and active in people who anxious. French researchers published a study in the journal eLife that reveals people who are more anxious were faster to detect and respond to potential social threats than their less anxious peers.
In the study, people were shown different faces of people that expressed anger or fear. When anxious people saw the faces, the part of their brain associated with action responded, while those who were less anxious responded through sensory circuits. In other words, anxious people were more likely to recognize and respond quickly to a perceived threat, possibly thanks to their more reactive fight-or-flight response.
2. Sense of Balance (Equilibrioception)
How do you stay upright when you walk? The answer lies in a physiological sense called equilibrioception.
The sense of balance is present in all living things, and some creatures have a more refined equilibrioception than others. Take cats, for example. Cats use their inner ears and tail to fine-tune their balance and walk steadily across incredibly narrow surfaces.
Not every person possesses this sense, but some individuals have four cones in their eyes that allow them to see colors most people cannot. Australian artist Concetta Antico has tetrachromacy and can see over 100 million colors.
Tetrachromacy is inherited from mutated genes on an X chromosome, making women more likely to experience it than men. In fact, men are more likely to be color-blind. In the 1980s, neuroscientist John Mollon from Cambridge University estimated that 12 percent of the entire female population had tetrachromacy.
Decades later, Jay Neitz, a vision researcher at the University of Washington, suggested that not all women who have this condition may experience greater color perception. According to Neitz, it may take practice and specially altered colors to become aware of different hues.
The color gray smells like freshly fallen rain, while orange sounds like a C-chord strum on a guitar. Many of us look at a color, see it, and that’s that, but people with synesthesia experience a wide range of extrasensory perceptions. They may be able to hear the color red or tell you what their favorite song tastes like.
By definition, synesthesia is a neurological condition in which the stimulation of one sense activates another unrelated sense.
When someone with synesthesia hears a song, they may also see different swirls of color. It’s estimated that 2 to 4 percent of the population has synesthesia, and parents can pass it on to their children.
5. Blind Sense
If you put on a blindfold, your other senses begin to sharpen. You’re more in tune to your hearing and touch. You may even pick up new scents that were previously unnoticed. The ultra-heightened senses of deaf and blind people aren’t a myth. When vision is lost, the brain rewires itself to enhance the remaining senses, improving someone’s chances of survival.
In a study published in the The Journal of Neuroscience, brain imaging revealed that deaf children use regions of the brain typically reserved for sound processing to instead interpret touch and vision.
We can walk without staring at our feet or type without looking at the keyboard thanks to proprioception. This sense of positioning in the body orients our self-movement and allows us to perform multiple tasks at once; we can talk to a friend while strolling through the park, or follow a yoga class and manipulate our arms and legs with our eyes closed.
Sensory nerve endings throughout the body provide the brain with information about limb positioning; whenever you move, your sensory nerve endings communicate a message to your brain, telling it which muscles and tissues are in motion or have been moved.
Similar to proprioception, kinaesthesia perceives your body’s movement even when you can’t see it. Kinaesthesia is controlled by in the sensory organs located by muscles and joints. You know when you put one foot in front of the other and can walk even in a pitch-black room.
Proprioception tells you where your body is positioned, but kinesthesia tells you how it’s moving. People who practice a sport typically start off uncoordinated, but as they practice, their kinesthetic sense improves, and they’re able to move more quickly and accurately.
When someone says, “I’ll be back in a minute,” or “Give me a moment,” you can estimate exactly how long that duration is. Chronoception allows people to perceive the passage of time, as well as understand time in its relation to their actions and the world around them.
People with dyschronometria, a medical condition that impairs their ability to sense and perceive time. Dyschronometria is usually caused by damage to the brain’s cerebellum, known as cerebellar ataxia. People with this disorder struggle with short-term memory, have poor spatial awareness (position of oneself in space) and struggle to keep track of time.
9. Speed Perception
The body’s vestibular system allows you to sense your position, movement and orientation through time and space. The vestibular system helps you maintain balance, and it even detects gravity so you don’t topple over.
The human vestibular system is located in the inner ear, and it allows you to detect the sensation of velocity. When you’re on a roller coaster and it starts to pick up speed, or you’re in a car and the driver floors the gas, your vestibular system detects this and sends impulses to your brain that keep you positioned properly.
10. Sense of Fakeness
People love to indulge in media that depict worlds vastly different from our own, such as “Game of Thrones” or “The Avengers.” But as much as human beings like to suspend reality, they’re hardwired to recognize it. Scientists at the University of California, Berkeley, discovered a keen ability to differentiate reality from fantasy and described it as “ensemble lifelikeness perception.”
In just 250 milliseconds, people can spot the difference between something real and something imaginary. Participants in the study used ensemble perception unconsciously to differentiate between real and fake objects and people in both real and virtual scenery. On average, this decision took less than one second, and all participants agreed on the same differences.
Connect With Your Senses
Modern science agrees that every human has 14 to 21 senses. Many people believe that there are even more unseen senses we can awaken, such as the Third Eye or different types of extrasensory perception called the “sixth sense.”
If you want to get in touch with more of your own personal senses, try getting quiet and meditating regularly. Meditation helps you develop a keen awareness of your body and mind, a feeling many would describe as a unique sense all its own.