Proprioception, the sense of knowing the movements and location of your body in space, is surprisingly not a well-known sense. Most of the research and knowledge that currently exists came about through cases of individuals who were lacking or had severely impaired proprioception. Because proprioception is largely an unconscious sense, compensating for a lack of proprioception can be tricky and require a lot of therapy. Through this website, we hope to leave you with a solid understanding about the sense of proprioception through learning about its history, circuitry, current research being done and several applications. This website was created for the Behavioral Neuroscience course at Macalester College in an effort to further the knowledge availabe online about neuroscience topics.
Proprioception is one of the most important functions of the nervous system, as it is constantly employed unconsciously by the human body. In its simplest definition, proprioception is "sensing the motion and position of the body." However, the body's use of proprioception is much more complicated and its importance to the body's everyday functioning is unparalleled. In the following section, I will focus on how people can train their bodies in order to improve and strengthen their proprioceptive sense.
Proprioception is primarily controlled by special sensory organs within the soft tissue of the body's musculoskeletal system. Through interaction with the central nervous system, these sensory organs regulate body movements, postural alignment, and balance. Proprioceptive sensory organs are located in muscles, tendons, and the connective tissues of joints. The sensory nerve fibers process information regarding the status and functioning of the musculoskeletal system, and sending the information to the spinal cord, cerebellum, and brain. This information is important to performing basic bodily functions, such as walking, but is also beneficial to more specialized behaviors such as athletic activities, artistic physical performances (such as dance), and other motor-related activities. However these vital functions are impaired when there is communication between the sensory organs is disrupted, making the body vulnerable to injury. A lacking sense of proprioception, consequently results in poor coordination and unbearable pain.
Like most motor skills, proprioception is best improved by physical training and routine exercise. In fact, physical therapy is widely based on improving patients' proprioception in order to stabilize their motor functions. Improving orthodic support is also critical in enhancing one's proprioception.