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Sensory disorders and systems, and olfaction research

Sensory systems use specialised receptor cells to communicate sensory information to the brain and help the body function properly.

Signals from outside the body, such as heat, pressure, light, sound, odours and chemicals are monitored by exteroreceptor cells. Internal information, such as blood pressure, head position and the location of your limbs in space is monitored by interoreceptor cells. When these sensory mechanisms malfunction or fail, it can be difficult or impossible to lead a normal life.

For example, tinnitus is the perception of sound in the ear without a corresponding external sound, and is increasingly observed during aging or after loud sound exposure. At times, the ringing in the ear can completely debilitate a person.

Balance disorders occur when three sensory systems, the visual and vestibular (ear) systems and your body’s sense of where it is in space (proprioception) don’t work together properly, making it very difficult to move about in the world.

Find out more about our research into sensory mechanisms and disorders:

Epilepsy

Tinnitus and balance disorders

Olfaction

Pain