Some science behind the scenes
Physical 5 senses
All the sensations that are collected via our nerves are fed to the brain chemically, electrically and to a certain extent mechanically.
The ear works mechanically for example, because the ear drum is ‘beaten’ like a drum by the sound waves. Within the ear, the vibrations then get converted to electrical signals and pass via our auditory nerve to the brain.
The signals that the nose collects are chemical signals that are also converted to electrical signals and sent to the brain.
It all sounds so simple doesn’t it? And if you read a medical text book or as I did the text book for A level biology, the description ends there – the signal goes to the brain where it is processed – almost as if the brain carried out much the same mechanical, electrical or chemical processes and somehow a miracle happened and we were able to recognise smells and see in three dimensions and from our hearing locate not only where the sound was coming from but get some idea how far away it was and recognise it.
A huge, simply huge amount of processing goes on to interpret these signals. The signals from the two eyes and two ears, for example, have to be combined and interpreted. Signals have to be recognised and matched with memory in very complex pattern matching routines. And signals also get named – we don’t say – ‘aaaah a smell’ – we say ‘aaaah kippers’, or ‘aah Chanel no 5’.
The text books describe the hardware, but there aren’t many text books that describe the software, because no one really understands it. But software there certainly is. It is ‘spirit’ that does the processing, not the physical world of matter.
See 5 senses system.
Just like a computer, the software is intricately linked with the hardware and certainly needs the hardware to do the processing. The brain has large areas devoted to processing of input from the 5 senses. The occipital lobe, for example, is a part of the brain processing sight. But these are like the microprocessors in a computer, devoted processors purpose built with their own software to handle very specific input.
Furthermore these processors do a lot of filtering of information. Whilst our senses may pick up a huge amount of information, the software that processes all this information filters out huge amounts that it considers we don’t need. It does it on the basis of what we were ‘designed’ for. We weren’t designed for example to be like a hawk and thus needing to see small game from great heights; we weren’t designed to hunt in the dark; nor were we designed like the male silk moth (Bombyx) to detect the scent of a female several kilometers away and respond to as little as one molecule of sex attractant per 10 to the power of 15 air molecules.