Eyes are considered the primary sense because they gather 80% of the information necessary for enabling people to see the world around them. But the other senses, hearing, touch, taste and smell, are not just hangers on that add some colour to a dull picture. They are valuable parts of the team that add perception and understanding to people’s vision, according to Australian behavioural optometrist Jacqueline Gattegno. 

She says those four senses perform very important roles in the brain’s processing of sensory data into vision that’s accurate, relevant, meaningful, and usable so that people can understand what they see and react accordingly to it, as well as function properly in their surroundings. Without them, the visual image could be compromised, causing the viewer to feel estranged and confused. 

Working as a Team

All five senses are in a team, and intertwined when it comes to how they operate. This makes it not only possible for them and the brain to keep in contact and work together in order to ensure the best processing of sight’s data. Gattegno says it also means that one of them can step in and cover when another, including sight, loses its ability to function properly. With training, the sense of hearing has been shown to assist the blind, and for those who are deaf as well as blind, touch can play an important role in functioning. It’s also possible that if the sense of taste fails for some reason, sight and smell might cause the food to “taste” the same.

Loading the Reference Bank

Their primary role is to help load the various “memory libraries” of specific information gathered by the brain for reference when processing the electrochemical data received from the eyes about what is seen. Their input adds a different variety and nature of information to the data received by the eyes, which is made up purely of colour, light and shape, and affect how the end picture is perceived, interpreted and understood.

How the Senses Work

All five senses collect information in reaction to different specific stimuli and the sensations or vibrations they create. For the eyes (sight) and ears (audition) stimuli are in the form of light waves and sound waves respectively. Taste (gustation) and smell (olfaction), which are closely intertwined, are known as the chemical senses because they respond to chemical stimuli rather than light or sound waves; and textures provide the stimuli to the tactile sense of touch or somatosensation, Gattegno says. 

Touch’s information is converted in mechanoreceptors on the skin before being sent to the brain; sight by the retina from light rays falling on it; hearing from drum-like vibration in the inner ear; smells in the nasal area; and taste in the taste buds on the tongue.

She says that once the data and information is collected, all five senses send their own signals to the brain for processing using sensory neurons and individual sense-specific receptors which accept their messages, and them only, for conversion into electrical signals. 

HEAR: Ultra106.5FM Interview with Jacqueline Gattegno – Changes in Eyesight Due to a Rise in Stress Levels

For more information on eye health and vision, or to book an appointment, visit the Smart Vision website: Optometrists Sydney: Optometry Services For Children and Adults | Smart Vision; for specific information about Myopia treatment and prevention visit Myopia Prevention: Solutions, Control And Treatment In Sydney; and for detailed information about Myopia Treatment visit Orthokeratology In Sydney: The Non Surgical Alternative.

To book an appointment for a thorough eye check-up, click here or Call the Bondi clinic on (02) 9365 5047 or the Mosman clinic on (02) 9969 1600.

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