A sense is a biological system used by an organism for sensation, the process of gathering information about the world and responding to stimuli. (For example, in the human body, the brain which is part of the central nervous system receives signals from the senses, which continuously receive information from the environment, interprets these signals, and causes the body to respond, either chemically or physically.) Although traditionally around five human senses were known (namely sight, smell, touch, taste, and hearing), it is now recognized that there are many more. Senses used by non-human organisms are even greater in variety and number. During sensation, sense organs collect various stimuli (such as a sound or smell) for transduction, meaning transformation into a form that can be understood by the brain. Sensation and perception are fundamental to nearly every aspect of an organism's cognition, behavior and thought.
This article may be too technical for most readers to understand. (May 2021)
In organisms, a sensory organ consists of a group of interrelated sensory cells that respond to a specific type of physical stimulus. Via cranial and spinal nerves (nerves of the Central and Peripheral nervous systems that relay sensory information to and from the brain and body), the different types of sensory receptor cells (such as mechanoreceptors, photoreceptors, chemoreceptors, thermoreceptors) in sensory organs transduct sensory information from these organs towards the central nervous system, finally arriving at the sensory cortices in the brain, where sensory signals are processed and interpreted (perceived).
Sensory systems, or senses, are often divided into external (exteroception) and internal (interoception) sensory systems. Human external senses are based on the sensory organs of the eyes, ears, skin, nose, and mouth. Internal sensation detects stimuli from internal organs and tissues. Internal senses possessed by humans include the vestibular system (sense of balance) sensed by the inner ear, as well as others such as spatial orientation, proprioception (body position) and nociception (pain). Further internal senses lead to signals such as hunger, thirst, suffocation, and nausea, or different involuntary behaviors, such as vomiting. Some animals are able to detect electrical and magnetic fields, air moisture, or polarized light, while others sense and perceive through alternative systems, such as echolocation. Sensory modalities or sub modalities are different ways sensory information is encoded or transduced. Multimodality integrates different senses into one unified perceptual experience. For example, information from one sense has the potential to influence how information from another is perceived. Sensation and perception are studied by a variety of related fields, most notably psychophysics, neurobiology, cognitive psychology, and cognitive science.