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Ten more human senses may hold key to better outcomes

Ten more human senses may hold key to better patient outcomes

Doctors and health professionals could improve their patients’ experiences by focusing on another 10 senses in addition to sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch, a leading British pain psychologist will tell a scientific conference in Brisbane on Saturday May 13.

According to Professor of Psychology Chris Eccleston, Director of the Centre for Pain Research at the University of Bath, the 10 senses of balance, motion, pressure, itch, pain, fatigue, breathing, temperature, appetite and expulsion have been largely neglected by professionals in clinical care.

Professor Eccleston will explore the psychology of these 10 ‘’neglected’’ senses in a keynote lecture for the Faculty of Pain Medicine of the Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists’ (ANZCA) Annual Scientific Meeting.

He argues that these senses, as key body experiences, are just as significant for effective patient treatment in modern healthcare as the five traditional senses.

Professor Eccleston said the traditional focus on the ‘’big 5’’ senses meant that ‘‘perhaps we have focused too much on the mind and now we need to start recognising the psychology of physical experience’’.

A greater acceptance and recognition of the additional 10 senses by medical practitioners and health professionals could lead to improved and better targeted clinical treatments for patients.

Professor Eccleston also interviewed 20 people about their own experiences of living at the extremes of each sensation for each of the 10 senses for Embodied: The Psychology of Physical Sensation published by Oxford University Press in 2016.

Professor Eccleston said he hoped his Embodied project would challenge traditional thinking about treating and managing pain. The project explored the extremes of the sensory experiences.

“It was important to throw a light on what’s fundamental about these senses and how they function in specific ways. With pain for instance there are those for whom pain is necessary in the positive pursuit of a goal such as running a marathon,” he explained.
‘’Then there is the other extreme of someone for whom there is nothing positive about pain but they are learning how to live with it. Hundreds of thousands of people are living with pain every day and making sense of their pain but they just don’t talk about it.’’

‘’The psychology of pain, for example, is extraordinarily negative but pain is a fascinating topic. You are born in pain and quite likely will die in pain.

‘’Many of our significant experiences in life may be accompanied by pain – a birth or a car accident. Pain is a backdrop to the way we live.’’

More than 2000 local and international anaesthetists, pain specialists and other medical practitioners have gathered for the scientific meeting at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre.

About FPM
The Faculty of Pain Medicine is a world-leading professional organisation for pain specialists that sets standards in pain medicine and is responsible for education and training in the discipline in Australia and New Zealand. Pain medicine is multidisciplinary, recognising that the management of severe pain requires the skills or more than one area of medicine.
Chronic pain affects about one in five people in Australia and New Zealand. Specialists also manage acute pain (post-operative, post-trauma, acute episodes of pain in medical conditions) and cancer pain.


The Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists (ANZCA) is the professional organisation for about 6400 specialist anaesthetists (Fellows) and 1500 anaesthetists in training (trainees).

One of Australasia's largest specialist medical colleges, ANZCA is responsible for the training, examination and specialist accreditation of anaesthetists and pain medicine specialists and for the standards of clinical practice in Australia and New Zealand.

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