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Senses and Sensation
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Mystery of the Senses: A Nova Miniseries

This documentary series explores the wonders of hearing, smell, taste, touch, and vision with a blend of science and imagery, literature and folklore, history and personal adventure.
Ivy (By Request)

Sensation and Perception [electronic resource]

Focuses on the ways personal experience can influence perception. Describes how sense receptors function, how the brain processes sensory information, how expectations, values and prejudices influence perception, and the use of error and illusion as investigative techniques. Includes commentary by Dr. David Hubel of Harvard University and Dr. Misha Pavel of the Oregon Graduate Institute of Science and Technology.

Mind Over Matter [electronic resource]: Advances in Brain Research

How does the brain create that internal space called consciousness? In this stimulating program, top names in cognitive science such as Daniel Dennett, Rodney Brooks, Endel Tulving, and John Searle delve into the mechanics of perception and cognition and speculate on the meaning of consciousness. Using advanced technology, they and other experts seek to understand the brain, leading to discussion of concepts that include mind-body dualism, self-emergent organization, unconscious vision, and even socially interactive machines like MIT's Cog.
2006; 1997

Pediatric Brain Development [electronic resource]: Importance of a Head Start

The nation's children are everybody's future, and what happens in those first three years, before school, really, really matters to that future, says child development expert Penelope Leach. In this program, ABC News anchor Diane Sawyer reports on the neurological connections that form in a child's brain during pregnancy and early childhood and the long-term effects of sensory stimulation and deprivation during those formative periods. Commentary by Dr. Leach; UCLA's Dr. Michael Phelps, co-inventor of the PET scan; and others sheds light on topics ranging from the complexities of language acquisition to a possible link between premature birth and ADD.
2009; 1995

Perception [electronic resource]: Theories

Can perception be explained in terms of sensation? In this program, the senses, including proprioception, are described; the structuralist, gestalt, constructivist, and direct perception theories are critically analyzed, focusing on both their strengths and weaknesses; and perceptual models such as those of Ulric Neisser and David Marr are presented. Many examples of the perceptual theories are provided. In addition, the roles of Wundt, Wertheimer, Gregory, and Gibson are discussed, along with key perceptual concepts such as Weber's Law, the Principle of Pragnaz, and the Laws of Proximity, Closure, and Continuity. An excellent overview of perception theory and various interpretations.
2005; 1998

Skin [electronic resource]

The topic of skin is introduced by viewing a typical collection of bodies on a sun-drenched beach. We are familiar with the sight of skin exposed to the sun, but do we know what is actually happening to the skin surface? Using scanning electron microscopy, we get a bug's-eye view of the living barrier between our body and the outside world. The detailed internal structure of the skin is explored using high-quality computer graphics. The program provides a complete introduction to the following topics: The structure and function of the skin; What sunburn is and how to avoid it; The effects of ultraviolet light on the skin; What is meant by the inflammatory response; How and why the body produces melanin; The causes and treatments of skin cancer
2005; 1995

Smell [electronic resource]

This program investigates how psychological principles determine a smell's level of repellence. After testing natural smells found to be offensive to most people, scientists at Monell Chemical Services Center and the University of California propose that our reactions are heavily shaped by personal experience. Demonstrations of how olfactory lobes work are featured. Host Nigel Marven observes how one of nature's worst smells, skunk, fails to bother everyone at a busy shopping mall. But this soon may change: the Monell scientists are developing the world's first universally abhorrent odor, so disgusting it could be used for crowd control.
2006; 2003

Vision [electronic resource]

This program argues that the human visual system is skillful at some things, but that we miss an amazing amount of what is going on right in front of our eyes. Whether spotting attractive people in a crowd, gauging depth and distance, or even predicting where things end up, the eyes are at their most perceptive. But clever experiments conducted at a nightclub by scientists from Sussex University illustrate that when a person's visual focus reaches its peak, other things within eyesight are missed. Discussion also focuses on the brain's processing of images, as well as the coordination of our sense of vision with our bodies.
2006; 2003

Taste [electronic resource]

This program explores the biological reasons why humans have the most amazing sense of taste on the planet. Persuading a family raised on Chinese food to try ripe Stilton cheese and a group of gourmet cheese lovers to try a Chinese delicacy of fermented raw duck eggs, host Nigel Marven assesses how we end up with such extraordinary tastes that vary across different cultures. Yale University professor Linda Bartoshuck discusses how the tongue and nose work together to taste food, and University of Pennsylvania professor Paul Rozin accompanies Marven to a chili eating contest, where he analyzes the exhilaration of the contestants.
2006; 2003

Touch [electronic resource]

Why are humans so responsive to touch? This program calculates the different sensitivities of the body's most receptive parts. The density of touch sensors in the skin explains why some parts of the body seem to have a much lower pain threshold-a microscopic splinter in a finger can be extremely painful, while a cut on your leg may not hurt as much. University College London professor Tony Dickinson and Stanford University professor David Spiegel conduct experiments with electric shocks, painkillers, and hypnosis to demonstrate the brain's role in the experience of physical pain.
2006; 2003

Hearing [electronic resource]

This program deconstructs the emotional effects evoked by music and other sounds. Experiments by Dr. Mark Blagrove at the Sleep Laboratory in Swansea show that our sense of hearing is constantly alert, even while asleep, and Dr. Sarah Collins, from Nottingham University, explains why deep voices are so attractive to the opposite sex. Scientists assert that we have certain automatic responses to rhythmic sounds because many of our basic body processes work to a beat-the heart pumping or the legs and arms moving as we walk. Highlighted is the mating male humpback whale, which sings to convey emotions to its fellow whales.
2006; 2003

Balance [electronic resource]

This program focuses on the components of our sense of balance. Stunt coordinator Marc Cass demonstrates how the balance organs inform us of how we are moving. At the Circus School, in San Francisco, a troupe of acrobats illustrates how eyes control balance by calculating what our bodies are doing in relation to the outside world. Dr. Ros Davies, from the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery, examines why alcohol consumption worsens balance. The cause of seasickness is also discussed, and a trip onboard an infamous roller coaster, the Russian Vomit Comet, reveals the "why" behind the sickening results for first-time riders.
2006; 2003

How Touch Makes Sense of the World [electronic resource]

This Science Screen Report examines the sense of touch not only as a means of physical sensation, but also as the most basic way of communicating and interacting with one's environment. The program highlights the human body's methods for detecting and evaluating external stimuli, and outlines scientific approaches to helping people with an impaired tactile sense. Presenting human touch as a mechanism for survival and happiness, this program is an ideal component for any study of the senses in anatomy or psychology.
2006; 2004

Functions of the Face [electronic resource]

This Science Screen Report describes the anatomy and functions of facial features, and the evolutionary development of the human face. It explains how the mouth and nose work together to identify food, the process of chewing and swallowing, and the varying functions of the taste buds, saliva, teeth, tongue, and jaws. Combining principles in anatomy, anthropology, psychology, and zoology, the program also details how muscles in the face convey expressions and emotions, how humans and computers recognize faces and expressions, and how the aesthetics of attractiveness can be linked to facial symmetry.
2006; 2004

Optics [electronic resource]: Bringing the World Into Focus

This edition of Science Screen Report explains the complex system of human vision and how that system can deteriorate. Outlining the basic concepts of visual perception, the program describes the functions of the lens, cornea, retina, and optic nerve, and identifies conditions that interfere with eyesight, such as glaucoma and macular degeneration. Also included are discussions of medical research and corrective procedures that have restored vision.
2006; 2004

Music of the Brain [electronic resource]

As many non-Western cultures have always known, music affects human development from the womb to the grave-in fact, it may even have specific health benefits. This documentary examines the role music plays in shaping our brains and improving our well-being. Starting with the effect of musical vibrations on premature infants in neonatal intensive care, the film moves on to study the role of music in enhancing childhood learning, the rewards of music therapy in hospitals, and the ways in which music can help the elderly. Expert commentators include Dr. Isabelle Peretz, a specialist in music cognition, and Dr. John Sloboda, a pioneer in the field of music psychology.
2010; 2009

Finding My Mind [electronic resource]

Is it possible to gain a complete picture of one's own consciousness? Or will the mind always remain an unsolved jigsaw puzzle? In this program, University of Oxford professor Dr. Marcus du Sautoy takes part in fascinating experiments that probe the complexities of the brain and awareness. After an overview of the mirror-recognition test, du Sautoy undergoes an MRI scan that identifies which part of his brain switches off when he succumbs to an anesthetic. Subsequently, he attempts to stay oriented while monitoring a live video image of himself from behind; endures the illusion of inhabiting another person's body; and copes with other procedures designed to unravel his sense of self.
2010; 2009

Is Seeing Believing? [electronic resource]: New Frontiers in the Science of the Senses

From cooking breakfast to driving home from work, we rely on the body's natural interfaces for nearly every task. Ironically, our senses are easily fooled and seem to affect each other in strange ways. This program follows new explorations in biology, neurology, and psychology that are shedding light on how the five senses work-not just as individual abilities but in tandem. Demonstrations feature bizarre optical illusions that reveal the subjectivity of color; a magic show that illuminates the eye-brain relationship; a synesthete who makes fresh food taste stale through the use of ambient sound; and a man who lost his sight as a child and has learned how to echolocate, bat-style, by clicking his tongue.
2011; 2010

How Science Works [electronic resource]: Bad Vibes

What's the worst sound in the entire world? It's a question that's certain to produce more than one opinion. To get as many answers as possible, acoustic engineer Trevor Cox created an Internet experiment that generated millions of responses to the query. Cox also developed a system of compiling, organizing, and interpreting the results, and he describes his investigation in this fascinating video. Viewers will gain insight into the collection and analysis of scientific data, quantitative and qualitative research methods, and the role of the peer review process-the scientific community's time-tested way of validating new findings.