Friday, November 22, 2013


The word proprioception means responding to one’s self. This is the sense that allows you to understand what your body is doing in relation to itself. If you are told to raise your hand, you understand that your hand is raised even when your eyes are close.  That is proprioception.  Another example of proprioception is the test police use to test for drunk driving where they ask one to close one’s eyes and touch one’s nose. You can do this because of proprioception.
The nerve endings for this sense are located at every joint and in the muscles (muscle spindles) throughout the body.  Proprioception develops in tandem with touch and the receptors are in place in very early fetal development. Infants rely on conscious proprioception a lot as they are learning new skills and learning to control their bodies. This process is teaching their proprioceptive sense to function on its own. 
One reason that proprioception is not thought of as one of the “senses” is because it functions mostly on an unconscious level. We are usually most aware of it when learning a new motor task and then , when learned, don’t think about the proprioceptive input anymore. In fact, if we did, our movements would be labored and choppy. The article cited at the end of this section includes a description of a man who lost his sense of proprioception and the difficulties he faced in trying to do simple motor tasks.
Putting increased weight on the joints increases the sense of proprioception. Stimulating proprioception is both calming and alerting (like chocolate, which both calms and alerts, as few other things do). This is why a hug feels so good. Aside from the social meaning, a hug stimulates the proprioceptive system.  Proprioception has been receiving attention as it seems in recent years as it seems to be critical in the work with and treatment of disordered sensory processing.

Kinesthesia is the sense of the movement of your body. It seems to use the same system as proprioception but may be processed in a different part of the brain. It was the study of kinesthesia that led to the discovery of the sense of proprioception

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