Biology Thought Of The Day: Around Here Somewhere…

StickFigure-BoomDIY:  Finding Your Body


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  1. Close Your Eyes
  2. Stand On One Leg
  3. Try The Following:
    1. Touch your index finger to your:
      • Earlobe
      • Nose
      • Elbow
    2. With your elbows bent, touch your two index fingers together.


The experiment that you just tried is a lesson in proprioception, coming from the Latin meaning one's own perception.  More specifically, it is the body's ability to sense its own position, motion, and velocity allowing for it to realize its position of body parts relative to each other in space as well as evaluate via touch size, shape, weight, and geometry of various objects. The body uses this ability to do things like kick a ball without looking at your feet, to playing a musical instrument or typing on a keyboard without looking at your fingers, to even something that most take for granted in ensuring that your mouth is in the right position to form words appropriately.  And in some cases, you can actually train your body to improve this sense.

It is generally thought that although we always hear about the 5 senses, the body may actually have well over 20 depending on which study you read (pain, time, temperature, blood chemistry, etc...), and all of them play a part for the brain and central nervous system to have an accurate depiction of our current awareness.  The ability to know and react to environmental information isn't limited to just humans, or even animals for that matter.  Plants will similarly behave based on spatial cues, allowing their roots to grown into the ground (gravitropism) or leaves towards the light (phototropism).

Return to the original experiment.  Generally the brain can adequately process information if multiple systems are feeding in data.  As you start to remove these systems (sight, balance, etc...) it becomes more difficult for the brain to adequately process the information.  This is one of the reasons that police use a similar test to detect DUI, as a degradation in proprioception could be a sign that the subject is inebriated.

PSA:  Don't drink and drive, you aren't just a hazard to yourself, but also those around you.

But do remember this much... the next time someone tells you that "you couldn't find your butt with both hands," be sure to tell them that you just don't have good proprioception.

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