The system in the human body that tells one its position in relationship to the outside world is called proprioception. Comprised of input to the brain from cell receptors (called proprioceptors) located in the skin, muscles, tendons, ligaments, and joints, along with sensory neurons in the inner ear, it tells us about our movement and posture.
4 TYPES OF INFORMATION DELIVERED TO THE BRAIN VIA PROPRIOCEPTORS:
Let’s examine the skill of jumping while reaching up with the right arm to catch a baseball:
1. POSITION: Is your elbow bent or straight on your right arm? Are the fingers open or closed? The proprioceptors tell you that your right arm is straight at the elbow and your fingers are open, waiting to catch the ball. You “feel” this position because of the proprioceptors.
2. LOCATION: This refers to the parts of the body in relation to the whole. Is your right arm, with the straight elbow and open hand, down by your right leg or up alongside your head? You may receive information from many proprioceptors all over your body that tell you that the position of your right arm is not down by your side, but up by your head. Your entire body feels the location of the arm with respect to the rest of the body.
3. ORIENTATION: Are you lying down on your back, face down on the grass, or are you standing in the vertical plane and reaching your right arm up toward the sky as you attempt to catch the ball? Sensory input from the inner ear delivers this information to us.
4. MOVEMENT: Are you standing still with your arm stiff over your head? Or are you jumping up in the air and extending the right arm to catch the ball at the same time? The proprioceptors throughout the body and inner ear deliver this information to your brain.
PROPRIOCEPTION AND BABIES
Stellar Caterpillar details tips for enhancing proprioception and improving motor skill development in babies. Babies enter our world from a dark and watery environment with a highly developed sense of touch. They need to learn to feel their bodies in our land environment, learn to move their limbs in relationship to the gravitational force, and discover a sense of orientation when they turn on their belly or lift their head. Proprioceptive information provides them with some helpful clues. For example, as you squeeze her leg bones, she begins to feel her leg and eventually feel that her leg is in a bent position. As you deliberately touch and move baby in a slow manner to deliver clear proprioceptive information to her brain, she learns to feel and ultimately move her body in this new environment.
In the above photo, baby feels her leg more clearly, and feels that it is bent because of the hand touching it. She also feels that she is lying on her side because of the pressure of her side ribs against the floor. She becomes familiar that this sensation of the ribs against the floor means that she is looking at the world from a different point of view than when her tummy is pressing into the floor. She learns that she is rolling because of the movement perceived by the inner ear.