The sixth sense -- your place in space

Apr 03, 2006

In addition to the familiar five senses—touch, sight, smell, hearing, and taste—scientists know of a sixth sense called proprioception It 's the sense of where your body is in space that allows you to touch your nose even with your eyes closed. Proprioception (PRO-pree-oh-ception) also informs balance and how to put one foot in front of the other to walk without looking at your feet.

LSI research assistant professor Shawn Xu and his colleagues discovered that the "sixth sense" is present in the model organism C. elegans, a 1 millimeter nematode,and have been using worms to study proprioception.

They have recently discovered some neurons that possibly regulate stretch receptors which tell the body how to move. For patients with Parkinson 's disease, these stretch receptors are thought to be involved in the loss of movement control, so finding a neuron that can tweak these signals could be a step towards developing new Parkinson 's treatments.

Xu focuses his research on a superfamily of critical, but poorly understood, calcium-permeable ion channels, the TRP channels. Using C. elegans, he found a communication channel between neuron and muscle, TRP-4, which plays a role in movement. Xu 's research shows that TRP-4 acts in a neuron called DVA that regulates how sensory-motor function is put together to produce movement. It controls locomotion, providing a unique mechanism whereby a single neuron can fine-tune motor activity.

"We are really studying neuronal signaling and the movement behavior, " Xu said. "There are many channels and they are the same in worms and humans. "

The paper "A C. elegans stretch receptor neuron revealed by a mechanosensitive TRP channel homologue," by Wei Li, Zhaoyang Feng, Paul W. Sternberg, and X. Z. Shawn Xu, was published in the journal Nature, March 29, 2006.

Source: University of Michigan

Explore further: Study gives more accurate picture of value of college education

Related Stories

Robot eyes will benefit from insect vision

Jun 10, 2015

The way insects see and track their prey is being applied to a new robot under development at the University of Adelaide, in the hopes of improving robot visual systems.

IBM peers into Numenta machine intelligence approach

Apr 09, 2015

Are we nowhere near the limits to which machines can make sense out of raw data? Some scientists would say that today's programmed computers cannot match a computer approach using biological learning principles ...

Device may allow sensations in prosthetic hands

May 13, 2015

To the nearly 2 million people in the U.S. living with the loss of a limb, including U.S. military veterans, prosthetic devices provide restored mobility yet lack sensory feedback. A team of engineers and ...

Keen sense of touch guides nimble bat flight

Apr 30, 2015

Bats fly with breathtaking precision because their wings are equipped with highly sensitive touch sensors, cells that respond to even slight changes in airflow, researchers have demonstrated for the first ...

Electric eels deliver Taser-like shocks

Dec 04, 2014

The electric eel - the scaleless Amazonian fish that can deliver an electrical jolt strong enough to knock down a full-grown horse - possesses an electroshock system uncannily similar to a Taser.

Recommended for you

One-third of world's people still have no proper toilets

4 hours ago

Toilets are taken for granted in the industrialized West, but still are a luxury for a third of the world's people who have no access to them, according to a report by the World Health Organization and UNICEF.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.