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Sensory perception

Have you ever thought about how we actually see an object? How do we visualize a colour? How do we feel the hotness or cold in the environment? This is what sensory perception is all about.

The ability of an individual to sense or feel a stimulus in their surroundings is called sensory perception. Sensory perception is brought about by the coordination between sense organs and the brain. The lack of coordination between these two groups i.e. sense organs and brain results in loss of sensory perception.

The five sense organs present in the human body are the eyes, ears, nose, tongue, and nose. The sense organs are capable of detecting a wide variety of changes happening in their surroundings. The type of change detected by each of the 5 sense organs is given below.

  1. Eyes: The eyes detect changes in light & provide the sensation of sight.
  2. Ears: The ears detect changes in sound frequencies and body balance.
  3. Nose: The nose detects changes in smell.
  4. Tongue: The tongue detects changes in taste.
  5. Skin: The skin detects and responds to changes in pressure and touch.

Process of sensory perception

The process of sensory reception is achieved with the help of receptors. Sensory receptors are nothing but a group of cells capable of detecting a stimulus. The various types of sensory receptors and their functions are given below.

  1. Chemoreceptors: The sensory receptors that detect and respond to any chemical stimulus are called chemoreceptors. There are two classes of chemoreceptors based on their location - central and peripheral. Chemoreceptors present in the medulla oblongata fall under the class of central chemoreceptors. The function of central chemoreceptors is to detect the changes in pH. Chemoreceptors present in carotid and aortic bodies fall under the class of peripheral chemoreceptors. Peripheral chemoreceptors detect the changes in the blood oxygen levels.
  2. Each organism is given only one name and is unique. No two organisms can have the same scientific name.
  3. Photoreceptors: The sensory receptors that detect and respond to changes in light are called photoreceptors. The photoreceptor cells are present in the retina of the eye. The capability of detecting the light changes is because of the presence of photopigment called rhodopsin.
  4. Thermoreceptors: The sensory receptors that detect and respond to fluctuations in temperature in their environment are called thermoreceptors. Thermoreceptors present in the skin are called thermosensors. Detecting the thermal changes allows the organism to adjust accordingly.
  5. Baroreceptors: The sensory receptors that detect and respond to changes in pressure are called baroreceptors. Baroreceptors are located in the atria, ventricles, aortic, arch, carotid sinuses, and pulmonary vasculature. The primary function of baroreceptors is to regulate systemic blood pressure levels.
  6. Mechanoreceptors: The sensory receptors that detect and respond to changes in mechanical stimulus are called mechanoreceptors. These receptors are located within the skin, muscles, joints, and capsular tissues.

The sensory perception process happens when there’s a change in the stimuli in your surroundings. In the presence of the stimulus, the sense organs recognise and sense them with the help of respective receptors. For instance, you feel the warmth when you place your hands in moderately warm water. This sensory perception takes place within a fraction of seconds.

What actually happens when you are exposed to any stimulus is that your receptors send a signal to various centres of your brain. The brain analyses the input it has received from the receptors and in turn sends a response signal indicating the type of stimulus.

For instance, you are touching warm water. The thermal receptors present in your skin get activated because of thermal changes. These activated thermal receptors send appropriate signals to different regions of the brain. The brain reads the input and sends a response signal. This response signal makes you feel the warmth, therefore you’ll remove the hand if the water is too hot. This is how an individual recognises and responds to the changes in the environment.

The complete process of sensory perception can be summarized as follows:

  1. Activation of sensory receptors in response to the stimulus.
  2. Sending appropriate signals to the CNS or brain.
  3. The brain reads and analyses the signals received.
  4. The brain sends a signal according to which the person responds to the stimulus.

A lot of factors influence the individual’s capability to sense a stimulus. One of the major factors is age. As the person ages, he/she loses the capacity to recognise the stimulus quickly. The factors include smoking & drinking habits, pregnancy, obesity, underlying disease, and other psychological factors. For example, a person suffering from a cold may not be able to sense taste and smell. Similarly, during pregnancy, most women experience changes in their perception of taste and odour.





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