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francescamarangell's picture

The 6th sense

Our nervous system moves all sorts of signals in fundamentally the same way through our bodies. This path involves sodium channels and action potentials, moving along axons in a process similar to the domino effect. Thinking more specifically about senses, our brains distinguish these signals by the location of the input and where it is received in our nervous system. If you scrape your knee, you know where the pain is coming from because the path of the signal moves from your knee to a region of the nervous system that registers pain on the knee. In terms of Emily Dickenson, all signals are a construction of the brain. Our brains interpret these senses and relay back to our bodies through experience. However, we can only experience that which our brains can interpret and our brains can only interpret signals for which our bodies hold receptors. So, as we said in class, our reality is limited to our range receptors.

When Professor Grobstein talked about animals and their varying range of senses (snakes can see infrared light, butterflies can see ultraviolet light, fish can feel electromagnetic waves) I couldn’t help but think about the December 2004 tsunami. After the tsunami hit, there was a lot of talk about animals and their “6th sense.” It appeared that animals were afraid and acted strangely before it hit, as if they new something was about to happen. It seems reasonable that receptors could explain this phenomenon. I read an article which suggested this theory. A large variety of animals possess specific receptors, whether it is regarding the earthquake or something unknown, which alerted them to the approaching danger.

Why don’t humans have this receptor? The article I read suggested that humans once had the same ability as animals to “sense” earthquakes and natural disasters before they occurred, but we have since evolved without that trait. Why is this receptor necessary for animal survival but not humans? Is the ability to sense earthquakes completely lost, or is it merely dormant in our brains? Do we have the potential to ‘relearn’ or ‘regain’ this receptor the way one can exercise the mind through meditation and grow new grey matter?


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