The phenomenology of proprieception--a little help...?

consider this organism:

it is composed of individual cells, or polyps if you prefer.
Each communicates only with its directly adgacent neighbors.
Cascades of stimuli ripple through the organism from time to time, but only (like in the game of telepnoe) by being passed frtom polyp to polyp.
No single polyp maintains “awareness” of any other polyp.
Collectively, the polyps can mve through their environment, but only in unison.

Forgiving my obvious artifice (there’s an oxymoron for you), this walking coral reef is you and me.

I seek help in deconstructing the process by which the purely internal stimuli of kinesthia and related data produce in some processing center

(Lekatt, go away. There’s no love here…)

a “sense” of occupation of space that is precise, effortless (for a contrast, try driving a 29 foot motorhome for the first time, and you will know what it means to NOT experience the space you occupy directly…)

Im especially concerned with the points of information “transduction”

ie, from one form of data , eg:neruchemical to a different form, eg.electrical or magnetic.

I will be mortified if someone comes back with a five page google answer showing me to be a lazy twit–I don’t even know how to pose the googole qustion in this instance.

Also, compare sensory deprivation states–ie, how muchj proprieception arises from suble but discernible signals from skin cells, the prolonged abscence of which mighjt disorient the attitude/altidude monitoring system, whateverthefuck it is…

Any help?

It’s an application of your sense of touch. A cerebellar skill, like any other. Using your other senses, you learn to associate the feeling of flex/tension in your limbs with their positions relative to your body and each other.

just so. but how?

under the rubric:feeling of flex/tension" “position” “relative” etcl there’s a multitude of transactions.

The "relative’ part is especially bothersome.

the continumm of possible sensations is determined by the frequency of which your receptor cells send action impulses to the brain.

take touch.

softly touch something and only a few of your receptors will activate and it will send data downstream to the brain at a few pulses per x amount of time.

Touch something hard and many receptors will light up and send data downstream at very many pulses per second.

get slammed by a bus and all your receptors will light up and send data downstream at their maximal possible rate. – basically, thats the limit of sensing touch. it can’t possibly be any greater.

Presumably repition of the subtle stimulus will result in desensitization–to hijack my own thread, is this the result of a decrease in the available neurochemical transmitters at the cell site, or the receptors, or some other feedback loop intervening to raise or lower the threshold of perception vis-a-vis the stimulus?

It’s a learned skill, like walking or throwing a frisbee™

At first you try to grab something and actively guide your hand to the object using sight to make corrections along the way. Do this enough and your body learns the sequence and magnitude of muscle contractions and joint flexion that will put your hand in a given location without constant monitoring by other senses. Working backwards, it can mointor the magnitude of muscle contraction and joint flexion and say “Ah, so the hand should be right around this location.”

Anything that screws up the learned relationship of between what you feel and the relative or absolute position of your limbs will make you unable to use the limb effectively until you learn how this new limb functions. This is why we have the quaint image of the bumbling clumsy adolescent that hasn’t grown into his feet yet. He’s got the internal body image of someone smaller than he is… he tries to grab something six inches away and the old commands to move his hand six inches make it move six and a half and he knocks over whatever he was grabbing for.

say a little more about learning the sequence and magnitude part. Not to be obtuse, you are finessing the part that bothers me–getting from the intracellular transactions resulting in, say, the contraction of a muscle cell to the extracellular appreciation of that phenomenon in the cerebellum ,( per your earlier post)

And, please, don’t patronize me with “well, your nerves conduct the information that the muscle cell has contracted.” get me from the dephosphoralisation of adenosine tri- phosphate at the mitochondria to Suzanne Farrell knowing how to lead with her shoulder before the rest of her body goes off pointe.

I don’t have my books to reference at the moment and I don’t want to google on dial up, but I believe what happens is that after prolonged stimulation your brain adjusts to x/impulses per second and sets that as a the new “baseline.” Only higher impulses/second would be felt.

Prolonged stimulation SHOULD have an effect over the overall concentrations of sodium and potassium surrounding the nerve cells, and should have a negative effect on excitability. However I have no clue how long that’d take, or what kind of problems would occur because of it. If anyone knows, is the one of the reasons why we sleep? to recover excitability of the brain?
as for the rest of your question…

Dude… be more coherent first.

The cells in the hand and arm are (in general) dedicated, simple actors like you say. The touch receptors in the finger, for example, when stimulated by contact apply a electrical signal to a nerve cell. It does this without “knowing” about the nerve cell or the meaning of the stimulus or the signal.

The nerve cell, in conjunction with other nerve cells, carries that information to the brain. The brain is the “self-aware” part of the body. It is the part of the body that knows there are other cells that it can communicate with and control. How it is self aware is a mystery to me.

There are macroscopic “reactions” to stimuli that can occur before the information reaches the brain. These are your reflexes. As I understand it, these reactions are hard-wired loops (ie. if pain > threshold, pull back). So, they can be set up with individual cells that do not have “awareness”.
On the hijack:
Repeated sensations are sometimes ignored through several processes.
One, many of our sensory receptors detect changing stimuli. This is why you can feel a texture on surface when you slide your finger but not when you hold it steady. Our “steady” contact sensors are typically less sensitive than the “transient” ones.

Two, the brain is highly skilled at tuning out information it has decided is no longer relevant. You don’t really notice the sound of your car engine anymore until it starts to sound “funny”.

Three, though probably least important, your sensory receptors can become fatigued. Our bodies are remarkably efficient for what we can do. Sensory receptors are built to be able to handle “typical” tasks, to make them stronger would be a waste of resources. So, if you overstimulate them, they can be come fatigued or even damaged.

It’s in the brain, mostly.

Proprioceptive sensors exist throughout the body, mostly on the skin, and in the tissues near the joints. They all send information to the brain. Watch a baby. He has no clue where his feet are, until he finds them. Then he chews on them, and discovers, “Hey, that’s part of me!” Same for every part, and every position of the body. Eventually, he has discovered them all, and begins moving purposefully. He finds out that stretching on one side, and pulling in on the other makes you flip over. It is an extension of a set of reflexes, which occur without deliberate planning. That too becomes learned behavior.

Eventually, the brain has it all correlated. Meanwhile, the brain is correlating sight, sound, (including binaural and binocular depth perception, and location.) The actual sense you are looking for, the awareness of the body’s location and position with respect to the environment is not one sense, it is a synthesis of senses interpreted by the brain, on the basis of very long trial and error adjustment and memory.

Babies are very smart.


This is a little too complicated for an internet message board. I’d suggest some books. Oliver Sack’s “The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat” has all kinds of case studies about proprioception, loss of proprioception, and the neurology of consciousness. The books is mainly dozens of case studies of people with neurological damage, and what that damage does to them, and how that illuminates how the brain works. An amazing book.

Another I’d recommend is Daniel Dennet’s “Consciousness Explained”. It’s a little more theoretical, but it could be very helpful. It might not convince you but it will at least help you understand some of the questions you are trying to ask even if you don’t accept the answers.

One thing to remember is that there are three levels of communication going on in an organism. One is the cell to cell communication you talked about, this is the main form of communication in a jellyfish or sponge or other simple animal.

Then there is the circulatory system that plants and animal cells can use to communicate with every other cell in the organism. Cells can dump special chemicals (ie hormones) into the bloodstream or the coelum or the sap, and those chemical signals are recieved by every other cell. This kind of simple communication is what lets plants turn towards the sun, grow roots down and shoots up, drop shaded leaves and grow new ones, etc. And this form of communication is still very imporant for animals too, remember all the hormones of various sorts coursing through your body.

Then there’s the nervous system, which allows rapid and specific communication between different parts of the body. But a nervous system doesn’t require a brain, many animals don’t really have a brain even though they have a nervous system. Humans still do a lot of neural processing that doesn’t involve the brain, the most obvious example is the pain reflex…if you touch a hot stove you begin to pull your hand away before the pain signals reach the brain.

Anyway, I’d suggest some more research on the neurological/physical side of this. We can’t exactly explain consciousness yet, but we do know an awful lot about how nerves, senses and brains work.

Another tiresome demand for coherence! Will they never cease? (Probly not.)

I’m struggling with the architecture of the system that has for its inputs intracelluar data and it’s output a map of space, gravity and the outlines of the coral reef.
My reference to Suzi was admittedlyi obscure, but she had a way of leading with her shoulder before the rest of her body moved. Her dancers (the girls) do the same thing now.

I don’t suppose we have the vaguest idea of what sort of rewireing accompanies the babies progress thru this, do we?

ALets take all of the inputs, nerve, neruochemical, etc, as being external to the brain (this is artivicial , I knoiw, but I can’t get there any8 other way.

The leap that I am strugbgling with is assembling all this data into an “organic” experience of space occupied. Mayb e I oubht to take it for granted, and move on

granted one can"learn" to experience the border between head and wall by banging head on wall, but I insist that I experience myslef ans INSIDE my body (no bid deal, yo do too.) Buit I get (on a conscious level) precious lettle data from that inside; par;t, leaving out the occasional perception of pulse in an extremity.

Um, I think I get what you’re saying, but i’m not sure. Clarify, and check your spelling please.

Thjat may mean that I’m not sure either…

I suppose I’m specifically trying to distinguish between my sensations dependant upon skin stimulation of one sort or another, and my (possibly illusory) experience of filling out the interior part where there really are few sensations, but I’m pretty sure it’s me in there…

btw, what are proprieceptary points? how do we identify them as opposed to other sensory cells?

Of course all of this nibbles at the “what is consciousness issue”, which is why I started by asking Lekatt to butt out

a point of clarification which perhaps I took as implicit in my original question.

I’m approaching this from a systems analysis point of view, becasue I don’t really know any other way to think abouyt it. I fear, however, that like all models it will seduce me into framing the data in a way that is ultimately productive of erfror.

Well, I am approaching it from the only example I know of where an organic sensory system self organizes to the point that “Is this part of me, or outside of me?” becomes a meaningful question.

Neurons within the brains of infants become interconnected in increasingly complex patterns as stimuli are organized by the brain. It is not a sufficient description of the development of intelligence, but it is a necessary part of the actual physical process that exists in all physical brains of intelligences known to me. In the only general case of actual learning methods that become self initializing, that characteristic requires more than sensory organization. It takes language. The feedback between language, and the physical development of the brain is a recently documented phenomenon, and is certainly not well understood.

Of course, your suspicion that errors are likely to exist, and even be produced by this sort of system is quite appropriate for the example of babies. We make lots of errors. We correct many of them. We ignore a great many more. We stumble. Sometimes we learn not to stumble in identical situations. Sometimes we learn not to stumble in even closely similar situations. Occasionally we learn not to stumble in entirely dissimilar situations. And once in a great while, without learning not to stumble, we learn to alter living spaces to eliminate stumbling blocks.


See, now there we go again…

If only Noam hadn’t gotten himself banned from this board, what a resource we would have!!

I am responding more to inner promptings than ratiocination in agreeing that language is lurking in there somewhere in a central role, which of course again implicates the whole consciousness mess.

and yet–

can we not hope to isolate proprieception as, for instance, repreenting the sensing function of the sensory function of the organism, so as to at least distinguish the language dependant from the non-dependant parts of consciouisness?

(I hope you know what that means, because I, for one, have no fucking idea-- I’'m hoping that I will understand it tomorrow…)