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The World Through Our Senses

1.1: Sensory Organs and Their Functions

Organisms use sensory organ to detect changes around them. These changes are called stimuli.

Eg: bright or dim light, hot or cold.

When a sensory organ detects a stimulus, it is called a sense.

Table 1.1: Relationship between stimuli, senses and sensory organs

Stimuli Pressure, heat, cold, pain, touch Senses Touch Sensory Organs Skin

Chemicals in air Chemicals in food Sound Light

Smell Taste Hear Sight

Nose Tongue Ear Eye

Response to Stimulus
When an organism reacts to a stimulus, it is called a response. Receptors in sensory organs detect stimulus. Nerves link various parts of the body to the brain. A message or signal, called a nerve impulse is sent by the nerves to the brain when stimulus is detected.

The brain interprets the signal and instructs the relevant organs to react. Organs/muscle/glands that respond to the message sent by the brain called effectors Nerve

Stimulus (heat) Receptors in sensory organs



Nerve impulse


Respons e

Nerve impulse


Nerve impulse

1.2: The Sense of Touch

The skin covers the entire body of the organism. Two main layers of the skin are the epidermis and dermis. The epidermis is the outer layer. It protects the body and prevents the entry of harmful substances. The dermis is the inner layer. It enables the skin to detect stimuli.

Figure 1.2: Structure of human skin

Sensitivity of the skin towards stimuli at different parts of the body depends on:
a)The thickness of the epidermal layer -the thinner the epidermis, the more sensitive the skin to stimulus. b)The number of sensory receptors -the more receptors found on the skin, the more sensitive that part of the skin.

The parts of the body that have thin epidermis and many receptors which is sensitive to touch are:
Lips, fingertips,behind the ears, armpit, the back of the neck.

The parts of the body that are not so sensitive to touch are:
Elbow, knee, palm of the hand, buttocks

Activity 1.3:

1) A paper clip was reshaped into a U as shown in Diagram 1.1 2) The partner was blindfold with a clean cloth or handkerchief. 3) The partners fingertip was touched with either 1 or 2 ends of the paper clip. Asked if the partner feels it as 1 end or 2 ends. A was recorded for a correct response and a X for an incorrect response in a table as shown below.

4) Step 3 was repeated until the partners fingertip was touched with 1 end and 2 ends, 3 times each. 5) Steps 3 and 4 were repeated on partners palm, elbow and neck. - Draw the table in text book 6) A report wrote on this activity.

1.3: Sense of Smell

The sense of smell is detected by the nose. Chemicals enter the nose through openings called nostrils. Nostrils open up to a hollow space called the nasal cavity. Smell receptors are sensory cells located above the nasal cavity.

Figure 1.3: Structure of the nose

The nose detects smell in the following way:

The inside lining of the nasal cavity produces mucus Chemicals in air entering the nose and dissolve in the mucus coating the smell receptors

The dissolved chemicals stimulate the smell receptors

The message is sent to the brain by the nerves The brain receives the message and decides the next action.

Why when we have a cold or flu, the nose cannot function effectively as a sensory organ of smell???
When we have a cold or flu, a lot of mucus is produced. The smell receptors are surrounded by this thick layer of mucus and cause a few of chemical vapour gets to the smell receptors. Therefore, the smell receptors do not function effectively as a sensory organ of smell.

1.4: Sense of Taste

The sense of taste is detected by the tongue. There are four types of taste receptors on the tongue which are sweet, salty, sour and bitter. These taste receptors are located inside the taste buds(groups of cell on the surface of tongue).

Figure 1.4: Structure of human tongue and the areas of taste on the tongue

The tongue detect taste by the following ways:

The chemicals in food dissolve in the saliva and stimulate the taste buds The taste buds send impulses to the brain The brain interprets and decide the next action When a person eats, he smells and tastes the food at the same time. The connection between the mouth cavity and nasal cavity enables the smell and the taste of food to be detected simultaneously.

1.5: The Sense of Hearing

The sense of hearing is detected by the ears. The human ear is divided into three parts:

Parts of the ear Outer ear Middle ear Inner ear Contents Air Air Liquid

Besides functioning as an organ of hearing, the ear also functions as an organ for balancing.

Figure 1.5: Structure and functions of human ear

a) Outer ear:
i) Pinna ii) Auditory canal Traps the sound waves and channels them to the auditory canal. Channels the sound waves to the eardrum.

b) Middle ear:
i) Eardrum ii) Ossicles iii) Oval window iv) Eustachian tube Vibrates when sound waves hit it Amplify vibrations and transfer them to the oval window Transfer vibrations of the ossicles to the cochlea Balances the air pressure on both sides of the eardrum

c) Inner ear:
i) Cochlea ii) Semicircular canals iii) Auditory nerve Detects vibrations and converts them into nerve impulses Maintain body balances Sends nerve impulses from the cochlea to the brain

The semicircular canals and the eustachian tube do not play any role in hearing mechanism.

Hearing mechanism:
Sound waves are collected by the ear pinna. Sound waves are directed to the eardrum through the auditory canal The eardrum vibrates

The cochlea changes the sound vibrations to nerve impulses

The vibrations passing through the oval window cause the liquid in the cochlea to vibrate

The ossicles amplify the sound vibrations and transmit them to the oval window

The nerve impulses are sent to the brain by the auditory nerve

The brain interprets the nerve impulses as sound

The route of sound waves entering ear is summarised as follow:

ear pinna
auditory canal eardrum


oval window


Auditory nerve


1.6: Sense of Sight

The sense of sight is detected by the eyes. The eyeballs are contained in the eye sockets of the human skull. Three layers that cover the eye are sclera (outer layer), choroid (middle layer) and retina (inner layer).

Figure 1.6: The structure of the human eye

The functions of the different parts of the eye:

Structure of the eye a) Sclera b) Choroid Protects the eye supplies nutrients and oxygen via the blood vessels absorbs light and prevents reflection (black pigment) Sensitive to light sends nerve impulses to the brain Function

c) Retina

d) Cornea
e) Conjunctiva f) Iris g) Pupil

A medium where light enters and refract onto the retina.

Protects the cornea Controls the size of the pupil Controls the amount of light entering the eye

Structure of the eye

h) Eye lens i) Suspensory Ligaments j) Ciliary body k) Yellow spot

Refracts and focuses light onto the retina Hold the eye lens in position Changes the thickness of the lens Detects light or any images that fall on it

l) Blind spot

The spot where the optic nerve leaves the eyeball

m) Optic nerves Carries nerve impulses from the retina to the brain

n) Aqueous and Maintains the shape of the eye vitreous Helps to focus light onto the retina humour

Changes in the size of the pupil under different situations:

The pupil in a normal situation

When a person moves from a bright area into a dark area

When a person moves from a dark area into a bright area

The pupil enlarges More light enters the eye

The pupil becomes smaller Less light enters the eye

The sight mechanism:

Light is reflected off an object into our eyes. The light travels through the pupil and the eye lens. Finally the light is focused onto the retina. The image formed on the retina is real, inverted and smaller than the object. The optic nerve then sends the nerve impulses from the retina to the brain. The brain interprets the image upright.

Figure 1.7: Formation of an image on the retina of the eye

Looking at near objects

The eye lens becomes thicker

Looking at distant objects

The eye lens becomes thinner

The flow chart of light rays from the object entering the eye:
cornea Aqueous humour pupil


Vitreous humour


Optic nerve


1.7: Light and Sight

Light can travel through transparent media such as air, water, glass and plastic. Light changes in direction by reflection and refraction. These properties of light can be observed in our daily life.

Reflection and Refraction of Light i) Reflection of Light

Reflection of light occurs when light bounces off the surface of an object. Two ways of reflection whic is:
Regular reflection occur on flat surfaces and mirrors. Parallel light rays remain parallel after reflection.

Irregular reflection occur on irregular uneven surfaces. Parallel light rays shine into different directions after reflection.

ii) Refraction of Light

The bending of a light ray when it enters a medium of different density is known as refraction of light. When light travels from one medium to another, its speed changes. This causes the light to bend or change direction.

The following information describes the properties of light.

Light travels in straight lines Light cannot go through opaque objects
The above properties cause: i. The sun eclipse ii. The formation of shadows iii. The formation of rainbows
A) i and ii only
B) i and iii only


ii and iii only

i, ii and iii

Defects of Vision and Ways to Correct them


common defects of vision

Short-sightedness Long-sightedness Astigmatism Colour-blindness presbyopia

A short-sighted person can see near objects clearly but cannot focus on distant objects. Short-sightedness occurs because the light from a distant object is focused in front of the retina. So, the image is a blur. The defect may be caused by:

Lens is too thick The eyeball is too long

Short-sightedness can be corrected using a concave lens.

A long-sighted person can see distant objects clearly but cannot focus on near objects. Long-sightedness occurs because light from a near object converges to a point behind the retina. So the image is a blur. The defect may be caused by:

The lens is too thin The eyeball is too short

Long-sightedness can be corrected using a convex lens.

Astigmatism occur caused by the irregular surface of the cornea. The image formed on the retina blurred and distorted. Astigmatism can be corrected using special cylindrical lenses or through surgery.

Is a type of long-sightedness among old people. It is corrected by wearing bifocal lenses.


Diagram 1 shows the cross section of a human eye with defective vision.

What is the cause of the defective?

A) The cornea curves irregularly B) The eye ball is too long


The retina is too thick

The lens is too thin

2) In figure 2, the straw looks bent because of:

A) Light can be reflected B) C) D) Light can be dispersed Light travels in a straight line Light can be refracted

3) Figure 3 shows a type of vision defect.

What are the defect and the lens used to correct the defect?
Defect Type of lens

A) Short-sightedness
B) C) D) Short sightedness Long-sightedness Long-sightedness

Convex Concave Convex


Limitation of the Sense of Sight


Optical illusions

Sometimes what we see may not appear to be real thing. This is because the brain cannot interpret accurately what is actually seen by the eye. Known as confusion of the brain.


Blind Spot

Is a point on the retina of the eye that cannot detect any images. The blind spot does not have any nerve receptors sensitive to light and is found at the beginning of the optic nerve. When images fall on the blind spot, the image cannot be seen.

iii. Stereoscopic and monocular vision

Stereoscopic vision:

Involving both eyes Enables us to estimate distance accurately Field of vision is narrow Human and predators usually have stereoscopic vision

Monocular vision:
Involving one eye only Difficult to estimate distance accurately Field of vision is wide Preys usually have stereoscopic vision

Comparison between stereoscopic and monocular vision

Vision involving both eyes
In front of the head Narrow Overlapping

The way objects are viewed Position of the eyes Field of vision

Vision involving one eye only
On the sides of the head Wide Does not overlap

Can estimate distances accurately Human and predators like eagles, tigers, owls, cats and lions

Estimation of distance


Cannot estimate distances accurately Herbivores like rabbits, goats, cows, deer, rats and chicken

Estimate distances accurately when hunting prey


Help prey to detect and escape from predators


Properties of Sound

Sound is produced from vibrations Sound needs a medium to travel. Sound can travel through solid, liquid and gas. Sound travels fastest through solid and slowest through gas. This is due to the compact arrangement of the particles in a solid which transmits the vibrations effectively. Sound cannot travel through a vacuum.

Reflection and Absorption of Sound

Sound can be reflected or absorbed when it hits a surface. Hard and smooth surface like stone wall and concrete can reflect sound effectively. Soft and porous / rough surface like curtain, cotton and cloth are good absorber for sound. Reflected sound is called an echo.

Application of the Reflection of Sound

Ships determining the depth of the sea Determining the presence of fish and the presence of enemys ship by a submarine.

Application of the Absorption of Sound

Walls of halls and big buildings like theatres have soft boards and curtains to absorb sound and reduce echo. cushion and soft padding in cars absorb the noise from the engine.

Defects of Hearing

Most common hearing defect is deafness Deafness caused by damage to some part of the ear such as: Tearing of the eardrum Damage to the ossicles Damage to the auditory nerve Damage to the cochlea Some case of hearing defect can be corrected through surgery or by using a hearing aid. Damage ossicles can be replaced and torn eardrum can be patched Some cases of hearing defect cannot be remedied such as damage to the auditory nerve and cochlea.

Limitations of the sense of hearing

A person with normal sense of hearing detect sounds between 20 Hz and 20 000 Hz (Hertz). There is a limit for our ear to hear sounds from a long distance, soft sounds such as heartbeat. Hearing aid is an instruments that can amplify weak sounds.

There are animals which can detect frequencies beyond human hearing . The following table shows the range of frequencies for hearing of different animals
Snake Frog

Audible frequency range (Hz)

100 800 50 10 000

Dog Cat Bat

100 15 000
10 50 000 60 60 000 1000 130 000

Stereophonic hearing
Using both ears Enables us to determine the direction of the sound accurately The direction of the sound is difficult to determine if only one ear is used for hearing.

Stimuli and Responses in Plants

Nastic movements






Stimuli and response in plants

Plants can detect and respond to stimuli around them. The plants respond to stimuli is called tropism.

Plants respond to light, gravity and water. There are also

plants that respond to the stimulus of touch.

Nastic Movements
Responses to stimuli which come from any direction. Plants that respond very quickly to touch.
Examples: Mimosa pudica Venus fly trap

The growth movement shown by a plant in response to light. The shoots of the plant grow in the direction of the light

source (positive phototropic). The roots grow in the opposite direction of the light source (negative phototropic).

The growth movement of a plant in response to water. The root grows towards the water source (positive hydropism). The shoots grow away from the water source (negative hydrotropism).

Geotropis m
The growth movement shown by a plant in response to gravity. The roots always grow downwards towards gravity (positive

geotropism). The shoots grow upwards away from gravity (negative geotropism).

Thigmotropis m
Is a response by plants to contact or touch with a solid

structure. Plant like cucumber and bitter gourd use tendrils to coil around a supporting stucture (wood, gril)