Various studies were already conducted to see how humans are able to sense certain feelings, such as itch and pain, and how they perceive these feelings. These studies based their researches on the premise that humans have the capability to sense and to perceive the things around them. Through their senses, humans can have information about external stimuli. These pieces of information will then be exported to the brain, from where the analysis of the information takes place.
The brain then sends signals on how people will respond to these stimuli, and basically, how people will perceive them. From this simple idea—sensing and perceiving—does scholars base the foundation of their further research. Latest developments in the area explaining the relationship between senses and the brain are already numerous. Researches have found interesting information that describes how people see, hear, smell, taste, and feel. Among the five senses, the sense of touch is one of the most difficult mechanisms to explain.
Until now, there exist cases that researchers themselves could not explain yet. One of this, for example, is the case of phantom limb. Another case is about the nature of itch, which is also the same topic tackled by Atul Gawande in “The New Yorker” entitled “The Itch”. From this article, itch as a feeling, has been addressed as a complex subject that is still puzzle for everyone. The article was following the case of a certain person whom was simply addressed as M. M experiences a certain kind of phenomena wherein she feels extreme itchiness in the right part of her head.
Gawande was very specific in describing the weird situation of M, narrating how M came to a point where she already had scratch her skull all the way to her brain. The itchiness that she feels, however, was explained differently by her doctors. Some believe that itchiness is brought by her senses. On the other hand, one of M’s doctors sees the issue as purely psychological—that M’s brain is dictating her what to feel. The article revolved around this story. Wanade even provided explanations to what might have caused the extreme itchiness in M’s head.
However, it seems that the author believes in the power of the brain to perceive things. In fact, according to the article, people already have these “preset’ information that they expect to sense. However, when perceiving, the brain functions as if guessing. The brain already knows what to expect. In fact, one perception theory states “perception is the brain’s best guess about what is happening in the outside world. ” (Gawande 2008). This idea is what the author thought to be the reason behind M’s situation. The article serves as a supplement to the lessons that have been discussed in the past.
During the discussion, it could be remembered that the sensing-perceiving process was described as a method wherein people could have an idea of the world through the use of their senses. Any signal that the senses receive will then be sent to the brain. The brain, in return will interpret these signals. From this interpretation, people could have their different perceptions of things. However, the article did not delve on this particular area. Instead, it showed the opposite process of the sensing-perceiving method.
It saw the big possibility that the perception happens first before the sensing. The author presented pieces of evidence that could explain this process. For example, according to the British neuroscientist Richard Gregory, “visual perception is more than ninety per cent memory and less than ten per cent sensory nerve signals. ” (Gawaden 2008). People already have this large library of information that they open when perceiving. The information acquired through sensing is just a little portion of the whole process. Gawande used the example of a dog hiding behind the fences.
The poles of the fence prevents to see the dog completely. Instead, only a few portion of the dog’s body is seen. If a person does not have his “preset” information about a dog, then he would not probably know what kind of creature is hiding behind the fence. The reason he is certain that what he is seeing is a dog is his own perception of what a dog looks like. Because of this, perception could be considered as a “brain thing”. People are able to distinguish information from environment due to what their brains dictates them to perceive.