Close your eyes and touch your nose. If everything is working properly, this should be easy because your brain can sense your body, as well as its position and movement through space. This is called proprioception. But how does this "sixth sense" work — and what happens when it clashes with other senses?
Top image: Sculpture by Antony Gormley.
We're all familiar with the five standard senses, which include vision, hearing, smell, taste and touch. The idea that there are only five of them has been rooted in our minds since the time of Aristotle, who explicitly rejected the idea of a sixth sense. But for centuries scientists have seriously entertained the idea of a sixth sense that allows us to perceive our bodies.
There remains a lot of debate about whether this sense, which later became known as proprioception, can be considered an additional sense alongside the five standard ones. After all, the five senses all allow us to experience the outside world, whereas proprioception allows us to understand our physical place within that world.
Sixth sense or not, proprioception is recognized as being vital to our daily experiences and something that contributes to our overall body ownership. As Nature's Allison Abbot says: "Without it, our brains are lost."