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Genes behind the sixth sense

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Sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch: the five senses that everyone knows. But there is a sixth, less well-known: proprioception. Our central nervous system receives information about our muscles, joints, posture and position in space.

This unconscious sense ensures that we don’t bump into things and that we can even raise a cup of coffee to our mouths with our eyes closed. In short: it allows us to make coordinated movements.

Some people make mistakes in this area, which is why the researchers felt it was important to better understand how the network underlying proprioception works. Long fibers connect sensory neurons in the spine to structures in the body that register muscle tension and stretch. This information goes to the central nervous system through which movements are controlled.

But how do proprioceptive cells arise and what ensures their unique connection with our muscles and joints? In the study, they found different genes responsible for each muscle group. They also saw that these elements are already active in the embryonic stage. They also found genes behind the protein that influence how nerve fibers grow to a certain point.

With this new knowledge and a whole host of follow-up studies, the researchers hope they will eventually be able to provide patients with, for example, spinal damage with better neurological replacements. But they also want to further study the relationship between proprioception and common back and hip problems.

Read more: Sixth sense genes.

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