Hold a glass of water in your hand. Close your eyes fully, and now take a sip of that water. Did you spill it over yourself? Probably not.
That’s because this is a routine task that we carry out frequently without having to think about. Even without vision you probably won’t end up pouring the water all over your shirt.
Proprioception is the ability to know the location of our body parts, even in darkness, and it’s something that we are only just beginning to understand.
When we close our eyes, our sense of the world around us and our body’s position in it does not switch off, an invisible impression remains. Much the same as our other senses (vision, hearing, smelling etc.), proprioception helps us to navigate the world, and is sometimes referred to by scientists as our ‘sixth sense’.
What To Do
Try this test to see how good your sense of proprioception is, and don’t forget to share your score as we would love to see how our readers get on with this.
You can do this either standing up or sitting down. Close your eyes and keep them closed for the duration of this exercise.
Hold your arms wide apart and extend both index fingers as is you were pointing at something at either side of you.
Now bring your arms together and try to touch the tips of your index fingers together on first attempt.
Repeat this 10 times and keep count of how many times you successfully connect the tips of your fingers.
How Many Did You Get?
If you scored more than 5 out of 10, your sense of proprioception is above average. 8 or more is excellent. Less than 5 is below average, but still perfectly normal and nothing to worry about. The interesting thing about this sense is that we can improve it with practice.
What’s Going On?
The sense of body position comes from the information sent to your brain from tiny ‘proprioceptors’ in your muscles, joints, tendons, and inner ear. These detect changes such as stretching and elongation, and this information allows your brain to build an unconscious image of where the different parts of your body are in three-dimensional space.
Most of us depend heavily on vision for cues on distances and positioning, so proprioception alone is not enough to get a precise enough sense of the position of a body part in order to touch it accurately.
However, it is an incredibly useful ability which keeps us safe and allows us to navigate the world to some extent when the lights are off.