Cheat mode activated: when you can’t trust your own feelings

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In an unusual habitat for a perfectly healthy person sometimes feels tactile illusions, loses orientation in space. It concerns those who works in extreme conditions: pilots, astronauts, and athletes. A habit to trust the senses in some situations could spell disaster.

Loss of orientation

According to the Federal aviation administration of the United States, five to ten percent of accidents in flight due to the fact that pilots fall into the power of sensory illusions. More than 90 percent of these cases end in complete destruction of the aircraft and loss of life.

According to research by Chinese scholars, 91 per cent of pilots in varying degrees is faced with the deception of the senses, this primarily fighter pilots. Almost always we are talking about the loss of orientation in space, when, during straight-line acceleration, there is a feeling that the car takes off, and a sharp drop in speed is perceived as a loss of height.

Perhaps a disturbance in spatial orientation (situational awareness) the aircraft commander was the cause of the crash of the Tu-154B-2 when departing from Sochi airport 25 Dec 2016. To such conclusion came the Commission for the defense.

Illusion in space

The main reason for such false sensations (also called somatostatine illusions) — a malfunction of the vestibular apparatus of the inner ear responsible for balance and correct spatial orientation. This body in the form of clusters of cells and calcareous formations perceives changes in head position and body in space and direction of movement.

Sensitive hair cells of the vestibular apparatus is immersed in topped gelatinous otolithic membrane, where are also located the ear stones (otoliths), pressure on different parts of the membrane depends on the position of the body in space. During climb, the pressure of these stones varies, but in weightlessness it at all, so the astronauts, like pilots, are often victims of false sensations.

However, after three days in orbit, most of the members of the expedition did not suffer from false sensations, as the brain adapts to weightlessness. About the same time took up the experiment with glasses inverting the image.

The fact that the human eye focuses images on the retina upside down, but the brain compensates for this, and we see the world as it should be. The American psychologist George Stratton, first dared to put on goggles with inverting lenses, has determined that the brain adaptation is required not more than a week. By the way, after Stratton took off his glasses, the world appeared to him upside down, but after a few days of forced inconvenience, everything fell into place.

But even basic sensations, which, it would seem, can be fully trusted, tactile, often deceive us. For example, the distance between equidistant points on the skin is experienced differently depending on where they are located, and stroking the tip of the nose crossed fingers gives the person the impression that he has two noses.

According to scientists from king’s College London, similar tactile illusions occur because of the peculiarities of the structure of the skin. The surface of the human body is divided into so-called receptive field of skin, dotted with receptors from nerve cells and elongated along the limb. On more sensitive areas (e.g., fingertips) these fields are many and they are small in size, less sensitive areas of the field larger, but fewer of them. The distance between two points is estimated by the brain by the number of these receptive fields lying on the lines connecting them. This view is confirmed by an experiment in which volunteers perceived the lengths of segments indicated on various parts of the forehead as different, although in fact they were the same.Cheat mode activated: when you can’t trust your own feelings

Hostages tactile illusions are people with the breakdown in the gene SCN9A, which encodes a protein that form sodium channels in cell membranes. Through them to the brain translated the pain. If the channel is not working properly, the signal does not occur, and the brain has nothing to process. The people in this case, it does not feel pain and do not notice even very serious injuries. According to the testimony of a Professor of the University of Cambridge Jeffrey woods, one of the rare carriers of this mutation in Pakistan jumped from the roof of the house, thinking that he is invulnerable. Of course, a 14-year-old teenager fell to his death, however, his numerous relatives with the same genetic anomalies later helped researchers to understand the mechanisms of occurrence of pain.

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