Sensory Systems: Did you know there are 8 senses?

The Eight Sensory Systems

For most of us, when asked “What are the senses?”, we would answer the standard five,of which we are taught from a young age. They are: 1. Vision, 2. Hearing, 3. Taste, 4. Touch and 5. Smell

However occupational therapists here at Future Steps would like you to be aware that our bodies actually possess EIGHT senses. These are known as Sensory Systems.

1. Auditory

The very familiar hearing is known to occupational therapists as the auditory system. This system allows us to know the difference between foreground and background noise (Auditory Figure-Ground). It also allows for auditory perception, which allows us to understand and react appropriately to sounds in our environment.

Sleek hipster headphones on a home office desk



The tactile system refers to the ‘touch’ sense. We gain sensory information from receptors in the skin. This allows us to realise when we are too hot or too cold or if a pressure is too forceful and is causing pain.


3. Visual System

Known commonly as sight, however the visual system is more than just ‘seeing’. This system allows for visual figure-ground, meaning we can tell the difference between objects in the foreground and background. It also allows us to have visual motor skills, which are movements based upon those we have seen. For example, when a child learns to write they imitate the movements that they have seen their teacher perform.



4. Olfactory System

The olfactory system really means our sense of smell. A difficulty in understanding this sense can mean a child struggles to be around strong smells or perhaps doesn’t connect the smell of fire and burning to danger.


5. Gustatory System

Taste. Gustatory perception allows for knowing the taste of difference foods through taste receptors on the tongue. Difficulty in this area, much like the olfactory system, can mean that a child is unable to associate tastes with danger.


6. Proprioceptive System

This may be a new system to some readers. This system is felt through joints and muscles in order to understand the body in relation to itself. This understanding allows for unconscious movement. An example of this system in action is the ability to clap your hands with your eyes closed. You are able to do this because your body is able to know its position in regards to itself.


7. Vestibular System

The vestibular system relies on receptors in the inner ear. This sense allows the body to understand forces acting upon it, in order to understand its movement in space. This understanding links into balance and eye movements, allowing a person to interact with their environment appropriately. This can be useful for everyday functioning, such as remaining stable when tilting the head backwards to wash your hair when in the shower.


8. Interoceptive System

This system relies on receptors, or internal sensors, near organs. This system allows us to understand what our organs are saying, are we hungry, thirsty or need the toilet? Difficulties in this area could leave a person feeling unexplained pain, as they or unable to associate what the internal sensors are feeling.

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