When people move to a new environment, they might experience a sense of discomfort. Consider a situation when a person enters a room that has an extremely foul smell. Initially the environment is overwhelming and the person feels like vomiting. However, with perseverance the foul smell seem to reduce in intensity and no longer overwhelms the person.
The person has gotten over the smell and can live with it. The sensory nerves thus stop being sensitive to the strong smell and adapt to the environment. Psychologists have termed this phenomenon as sensory adaptation. This adaptation helps people to live comfortably in new environments and still balance the need to receive sensory stimulus.
Sensory adaptation is possible to all the five senses namely, sight, sound, touch smell and taste. However, the sensation that does not adapt easily is the sense of pain. In the event that a person is burnt, the smell of burnt flesh disappears quickly but the pain lingers on for longer period (Smith & Wallace, 2011). The purpose of this paper is to describe the process of sensory adaptation in human beings through a series of experiments.
The first experiment involves the sense of touch. I rubbed my index finger over a very coarse sand paper for one minute. On a scale of 1 to 7, where 7 is very course, I rated the paper at 7. I waited for minute and rubbed with the same finger again. However, upon the second turn the paper seemed less coarse. I rated its level of coarseness at four. My sense of touch had become less sensitive to the sense of touch.
During the process of the experiments, a number of sensory activities took place in my nervous system. Upon touching the sandpaper, the dendrites receive the stimulus and process it in the cell body. After processing, this information is transferred by the axon as a chemical signal through the synapse, which may or may not be located in that muscle cell.
This chemical message, the neurotransmitter, is picked by the sensory neurons and transmitted to the brain through the spinal tract located in the spinal cord. Inside the brain, the cerebrum receives this stimulation, which is then transferred to the Somatosensory Cortex. This organ in the brain perceives the level of the coarseness of the sandpaper and immediately reacts by sending a message back to the finger through the motor neurons.
This message commands the sensory cells to become less sensitive to stimulation. Thus the sandpaper seems less coarse a second time (Slideshare, 2011; Moini, 2008). This seems to be a very long process but it takes millisecond from initiation to completion. This is because the central nervous system is equipped to respond to stimulus and make split second decision.
The second experiment involved the sense of taste. I took two glasses of water and added sugar into one. I sipped the water from the glass that I had added sugar and swished in my mouth for about fifteen seconds. I noticed that my sweet glands became less sensitive to the sweetness of water towards the end the fifteenth second.
I then sipped the sugarless water in swished it in my mouth for a few seconds. I noticed that the water tasted salty, despite the fact that I had not put any salt into the water. There was sensory adaptation in my taste buds when I tasted water with sugar. My senses became excessively stimulated that when I tasted the sugarless water it seemed salty.
The taste cells in the taste buds pick up the very sweet sense, which is dissolved into the taste pore. The taste pore transducts the chemical message to the nerves, and the neurotransmitter is then activated and transferred to the synapses into the brain. This releases electrolytes, which connect with receptors located inside the taste membrane. This stimulates numerous taste buds in the tongue that can detect the strong taste of sugar (Slideshare, 2011).
The above experiments prove that human beings are equipped to adapt to different environments. Adaptation is the natural way of responding to new environments, it is an “automatic relationship between input of a new environment and the physical response of organism” (Edward, 2002).
It is natural for human beings to adapt to new environments. Adaptation may occur through natural selection where the best-fitted human beings survive in a new environment. This exposure will result in the necessary phenotypic adaptation. The human genotype responds by aligning the genotypic make up which is transferred to the subsequent offspring and thus evolutionary adaptation occurs.
In conclusion, human beings are biologically equipped to adapt to new environments. Our senses progressively become less sensitive to new stimuli, thus making it easy to live in that new environment. Evolution is a product of adaptation. However, not all living things adapt to new environment easily as they may have physiological weaknesses. On the short term, individuals develop complications. But when exposed to new environment for a longer time extinction occurs.
List of references
Edward, L. (2002). Evolutionary psychology: An emerging integrative perspective within the science and practice of psychology. The Human Nature Review, 2(17-61).
Moini, J. (2008). Focus on pharmacology: Essentials for health professional. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall
Slide share (2011). Sensory adaptation experiment. Retrieved February 10, 2011, from
Smith S. & Wallace, O (2011). What is sensory adaptation? Wisegeek. Retrieved February 10, 2011