What you will study
The module explores the ways in which exciting ideas and findings at the forefront of biochemistry, biophysics and molecular biology have transformed our understanding of how we experience the world through our senses. It provides an understanding of:
the nature of the communication signals (e.g. light for vision, sound for hearing, molecules for taste and smell)
primary transduction mechanisms that convert signals into electrical impulses
the common nature of the transmission and processing of the resulting electrical signal within the nervous system
sensory disorders and treatments.
The material is divided into six blocks, presented in three printed books, beginning with two blocks introducing the senses and the nervous system. These blocks are designed to give you sufficient neuroscience background to work through the remainder of the module and include online activities to maximise your understanding of this essential information. Blocks 3-6 also include online activities, as well as additional resources which can be accessed online.
Throughout the module the emphasis is on the commonalities and integration between the sensory systems, as you examine the processes from sensation to perception for each sense as well as the impact and treatment of impairment or loss of sensory systems.
Block 1 Introduction to the senses. This block introduces you to the human senses, concentrating on observations and experiences that raise questions about how the senses work.
Block 2 Introduction to the nervous system. In this introduction to neuroscience, and in particular to the neuron, you’ll look at the way electrical impulses created by external signals of whatever kind are transmitted throughout the nervous system; and where they are processed and give rise to our personal picture of the world. You’ll also explore the techniques that are commonly used in investigating the senses.
Block 3 Somatosensation describes the somatic sensory system including how we sense and perceive touch, pain and our own body position and movement. The latter is often considered a hidden sense and in this block you will explore the impact of its loss. You will also cover the multidisciplinary treatment of pain.
Block 4 Hearing and balance. In this block you’ll explore the nature and properties of sound waves; the specialised anatomy and functioning of the ear; and how auditory perception arises, including for speech and music. This block also focuses on the vestibular system, which is housed within the ear, and how this system gives rise to our sense of balance.
Block 5 Vision. This block is exclusively dedicated to how we sense and perceive visual information. It is the longest block, in part because the most is known about vision but also because vision is in many ways the most complex of the senses. In this block you’ll cover the nature and properties of light; the optical system of the eye; processing of visual information within the brain; and how we perceive different elements of the visual scene such as colour.
Block 6 The Chemical Senses. The related senses of smell and taste as well as the sense of flavour are the focus of this block. The topics covered include the molecular characteristics of substances that we smell or taste; the nature of the receptors involved; the coding of smell and taste and how smell may be used in diagnostics.