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The Adaptation in the Senses
Sep 1, 2008

For centuries we have enjoyed commitment to a belief in eternity, and the atmosphere we inhaled every moment was filled with eternal considerations. Each of our pursuits triggered in us feelings from beyond time; our dreams were set in motion on a tour from a crystal-clear past through a joyful future; our souls were made to sense the beauties of the years and centuries that have gone by and the years and centuries yet to come, transforming our vision into a vast, contemplative pleasure. Each happy moment and what it reminded us of covered our horizon with its enchanting rose-like scent, stroked our heads with a silken touch, made us almost forget our transience, dropping a ray of eternity on the eyes of our heart and making our spirit taste the joy of the life beyond. This state was to such an extent that for us this world was like the head of a waterfall and the life to come was like its bank; we were never distracted by any thoughts of an imminent end or termination.

Based on a sensible interpretation of the cosmos and events, we considered the arrival and departure of each existence in this world very normal, a process taking place in a gentle manner; this mysterious journey instilled in us profound spiritual expansion, for it was a means of reunion, each action and replacement was like being discharged of duty and freedom from the burdens of service at the end of which await the realms of divine favors hat is constantly heard, touched and smelt; we, as humans, don’t hear or feel certain things after a certain period of time. In medical terms, this process is called “adaptation to the senses.” If we have to go into a very stinky place, we intensely feel the smell at first, but after a while, we begin to feel it less. Another example can be given about those who wear glasses. They sometimes search for their glasses in different places thinking that they have lost them, even though they still wear them.

Our friend’s adaptation levelwas a little higher than the normal, but considering the disturbance of those who wear glasses would feel on their noses, it is better understood that this adaptation is a great favor of All-Powerful and All-Knowing God.

In the absence of adaptation

If we weren’t endowed with the capacity of adaptation, our brain would be busy with unnecessary information and we would be disturbed by the constant touching in our body. The cells that feel the senses are called “receptors.” There is an amazing adaptation in most parts of the cells that sense the touching in the skin. For instance, when we wear something, we feel the first touch of the garment to our body, but this feeling caused by the garment disappears afterwards. If we were to feel everything touching our skin, life would be very difficult for us. Likewise, in some patients, the adaptation to senses disappears and this makes the things harder for them. Some patients, on the other hand, develops hypersensitivity. They feel pain and suffering even by the slight touching of their garments. It is very hard to cure this illness which is called “neuropathic pain” in medicine. They feel cancer-like severe pain. Scientists are still working on the studies to stop this kind of pain.

How does adaptation occur?

Adaptation happens as a result of a different mechanism for each sense. Touching causes a liquid movement in the cytoplasm of the receptor cells. This movement is sensed by the cell and conveyed to the brain in the form of electric signals. Despite the continuation of touching, the cytoplasm movement in receptor cells is stopped after a while and no signal is sent to the brain. So, no touching is felt. But when touching stops, as a result of a liquid movement in the cytoplasm of the receptor cells, a new signal prompts the brain that “touching is over.” In short, only the beginning and the end of touching is communicated to the brain. Despite the continuation of touching between the beginning and the end, the brain (rather the “soul”) is not bothered by this redundant information. Even though, many types of receptors serve in the process of adaptation to touching, only six of them have been thoroughly studied and named. The adaptation is not the same in all receptors; fast and advanced in some of them, while in some of them it is slow and weak. For example in touching receptors of the skin (Merkel disks), the adaptation is relatively little and there is no adaptation at all in some senses such as feeling the pain. In some receptors (such as Ruffini’s corpuscles) located in dermis (bottom layer of the skin), deep organs and joint capsules, the adaptation is very little. These receptors send the weight and pressure signals required for the absence of adaptation. Weight and pressure receptors located in the joint capsule are responsible for sensing the angle degree of the joint. The brain receives information from them about the angle degree of the joints and it constantly uses it while sending orders of movement to the muscles of the skeleton. We can walk and do the other movements that require balance thanks to these perfect processes happening beyond our consciousness. If the brain didn’t know the information regarding the angle degree of the joints, some jobs that require delicate balance such as the job of construction workers wouldn’t be properly done.

Adaptation in various senses

Adaptation in seeing (accommodation): Adaptation in seeing is different from the one for touching. If we keep looking at an object, we keep seeing it. In this sense, there is no interruption in adaptation and seeing. This is another favor of God among many of His favors. If the adaptation in seeing were to be similar to the one in touching, we wouldn’t be able to do many activities that require walking, reading, sitting, standing and being in balance. All-Merciful God placed different adaptations in our eyes appropriate for the jobs that they do.

Adaptation in seeing near and far: We keep seeing an object no matter how nearer or farther we move it. Despite the change in the distance of the object, our vision doesn’t change. These processes are automatically carried out depending on the distance we look and they are operated under the framework of optical principles such as changing the shape of the eye lens and approaching of the lens to the retina or moving away from it.

Adaptation in seeing in the light and dark: Our eyes detect and adapt to the new surroundings, be it light or dark. During this adaptation process, seeing in the dark and light is made possible by adjusting the degree of vision and increasing and decreasing it one million times. The activities of the photoreceptors (in the shape of rod and cone) are carried out by an amazing knowledge and power.

Adaptation in smelling (olfaction): The smelling receptors of the nose adapt to the bad smell at a rate of 50 % in its first encounter. So, the dense bad smell felt in the first encounter disappears immediately. A minute after this encounter, the sensing of the bad smell is eliminated upon the orders coming from the brain to the nerves of smell. Garbage men or cleaners or the people working in slaughterhouse or sewerage do not get disturbed, as a favor of God, by the bad smell as much as other people do.

Adaptation in tasting: the adaptation happens one minute (at most) after the “tasting.” Yet All-Powerful and All-Knowing God created the adaptation capacity for the bitter materials very low, because most of these materials are a kind of poison for our body. Therefore when the babies unconsciously want to eat something poisonous, they take them out at once and are avoid of being poisoned.

Adaptation in temperature: The temperature receptors are intensely stimulated in sudden temperature changes. The adaptation occurs in 30 seconds or one minute as the intense of stimulation decrease. However there is no 100% adaptation, because the receptors sense both the sudden changes and constant situations. Remember, both extreme hot and cold are harmful for the body. The fact that the adaptation in this sense is limited is another favor of God.

Adaptation in hearing: When we enter a noisy environment, we are disturbed by the extreme noise. But two tiny muscles located in the middle ear contract as a manifestation of His mercy and prevent the sounds from being conveyed to the middle ear by masking all the sounds except for the ones of normal conversation. Workers in a noisy environment keep working as though they do not hear the noise at all.

Adaptation in feeling the pain: There is no adaptation in feeling the pain which is an indication of God’s mercy. If there were any adaptation to the pain, we would lose the patients before diagnosing and curing the illnesses. If a patient bothered by the gastrointestinal bleeding or appendicitis were to have an adaptation to the pain, after a few minutes he would not feel any pain before taken to the hospital and think that his illness is over and does not feel any need for a treatment. But possible inflammation of the appendix might result in the risk of death after a while.

Many of us are not aware of this perfect mechanism of adaptation. All these examples put forward the fact that the mechanisms bestowed upon our senses are very harmonious and adaptive to the working principles of our intellectual and spiritual faculties in the evaluation of various situations that we encounter in our life and they also show that humans were created as a whole. If we were deprived of such a blessing, we wouldn’t be aware of many changes that threaten our life and be bothered by the disturbing environmental conditions.

Omer Arifagaoglu is a professor of medicine. He lives in Turkey.