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Discovery Science Unlocks The Mysteries Of Human Senses

Premiering on March 14, the experimental series THE SCIENCE OF THE SENSES will air every Monday at 9:30 pm.

March 14, 2011

What allows us to distinguish the smell of lemon from that of coffee?  Why is music so important to us and why does it have a profound effect on the human heart?  Why do we see what we see?   Discovery Science will unlock the mysteries of the human body to explain why we experience the sights, smells, touch and sounds of our existence.

THE SCIENCE OF THE SENSES will investigate how hearing works and how the brain processes a series of sound waves, transforming them into music, language and ambient sound.  The programme will explore how smell combines with taste, somewhere in our brain, to create the perception of flavour.  The series goes beyond the basics of sweet, sour, salty, savoury and bitter tastes to reveal that it’s the aroma that allows us to differentiate one food from another.  The programme also delves into scientific research to reveal that vision takes an immense amount of brainpower, more than 65% of the brain's neural pathways.

Each episode will explore the biological, neurological and physical processes that allow us to perceive our surroundings.  Hearing will take us on a journey through the ear, into the brain and right into the heart of the human psyche. Touch will take us on a voyage through the skin, into the subcutaneous world of our sensory receptors and up into the brain. Sight will take viewers on a fascinating tour of our visual world - from the moment light enters our eyes, to the way this information is transformed into electrical impulses. Smell and Taste will explore how smell and taste combine to create the perception of flavour.

Narrated by world renowned and award winning scientist, environmentalist and broadcaster, David Suzuki, THE SCIENCE OF THE SENSES will examine the complex, delicate and richly textured interface between our inner space and the outer world.   Using 3D animation and storytelling, Discovery Science will take viewers through the latest research done on the senses.   The programme will also feature personal experiences of people with enhanced skills and people who are deprived of them.  Each episode will conclude with a look at future research that will enhance or even replace the sense we use today.

Travelling down neurological pathways and through biological processes, THE SCIENCE OF THE SENSES will uncover startling facts about the functioning of our senses:

-          Taste and smell are the senses that allow us to experience the world on a molecular level.  Smells come in countless forms and degrees of intensity.  Taste offers far fewer sensations with only sweet, sour, bitter, salt and savory to choose from.

-          With so few basic tastes, how do we explain the myriad of flavors we experience when we eat?  The answer lies in the mysterious relationship between two chemical senses, that indefinable point where our sense of smell meets our sense of taste.

-          When we sniff, airborne molecules bounce through our nasal passages.  Most are sucked into our lungs as we breathe but a few hit a patch of neurons called the olfactory epithelium located at the top of each nostril.  The epithelium contains about five million receptor cells of which there are 350 or more different types.

-          A single odor will typically stimulate a number of receptor types across the olfactory epithelium creating a pattern of electrical activity distinct for that odor. The staggering number of possible patterns allows us to discriminate anywhere from ten to a hundred thousand different odors.  These electrical patterns travel along the olfactory nerve to the brain.

-          The dog has about 220 million odor receptors which is 40 times the number found in humans.

-          Our tongues are covered with small bumps called papillae that contain our taste buds.  Food molecules diluted in saliva enter the papillae and react with receptors on the taste buds’ membranes.

-          The five basic tastes, sweet, sour, bitter, salt and savory are uniquely structured molecules that fit into receptors with complimentary shapes.  These interactions produce electrical impulses that travel along nerve fibers into the brain stem and then onto the cortex where they are identified.


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