1. Mikmaxs
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    Mikmaxs Active Member

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    Loss of Sensation

    Discussion in 'Research' started by Mikmaxs, Apr 20, 2016.

    Hello!
    So, I have a character in my book who (For reasons,) loses feeling in her body. She can still move around, (And feel hunger and thirst and whatnot,) but her nerves are no longer sending feedback to her brain. (It's caused by magic, so I don't much care if this is physically possible.)

    My question is, how would this effect you, besides the obvious? I'm trying to think of anything major that I may have missed. Obviously, even something as simple as standing would become incredibly difficult without sensort feedback, and the risk of injuring oneself would be extremely high. But what else? What pops to mind when you think of problems that this would cause?
     
  2. Xerclipse
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    Xerclipse Member

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    No feeling of physical sex (that's gonna affect romantic relationships). But she can do any dangerous and painful thing without feeling pain. I guess it would make her more risk taking. Torture is useless on her.
     
  3. Kate Sen
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    Kate Sen Member

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    Think of the psychological and social problems this would cause. Leprosy is a disease that causes nerve damage. As a result people do not feel injury, and over time the effects of injury cause visible damage that cause others to shun them and be disgusted or uncomfortable around them. I would think it also would have effects on self esteem, like I can't believe I just gave myself such burns that I need medical treatment, "how stupid and clumsy of me."
     
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  4. Mikmaxs
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    Mikmaxs Active Member

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    It's worth mentioning that the effects are temporary, they'll last about a week. (Give or take.) While she may accrue injuries that she wouldn't have otherwise, I'm not sure if that is a long enough span to have major psychological effects.
     
  5. Oscar Leigh
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    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member

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    Not feeling pain is not as cool as people sometimes think it is. It's probably not worth it. Considering it's your warning system for damage. Without it, people have bleed to death in their sleep from smallish cuts.
    Being able to turn pain on and off again is more useful.
     
  6. Kate Sen
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    Kate Sen Member

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    A week is a long time. I would expect that it will last longer for her, since she now can no longer ever be on autopilot but has to pay attention to all movements that before came naturally, but now she can no longer rely on bumping into something causing her to move out of the way, and also she will have a tendency to over exert herself since pain is what usually causes us to stop and slow down, so I would expect her to be more tired.

    I disagree with Xerclipse on risk taking. I would expect her to become very risk averse, since she now has risks which others do not have, and things that come naturally to others will be different for her now, so I would expect her to either quickly learn to take it slow and carefully, or to die very fast from some ridiculous activity that would have been safe for anyone else.
     
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  7. Xerclipse
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    Xerclipse Member

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    Depends on the character. The question was how would it affect you? There are many factors that play into this too. I could be thrill seeking and willing to take damage without pain, but at some moments be careful. Or I could learn to live a more cautious life. Also depends on whether the loss of sensation was recent or not.
     
  8. Jack Asher
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    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

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    She'll be pissing herself all of the time. She won't know when she has to pee, until her muscles can't take the pressure anymore. People with CIPA (Congenital Insensitivity to Pain...um...A) have to come up with a schedule to visit the bathroom.

    Also if she doesn't itch, she probably can't sneeze, and that's a huge other medical problem, because irritants in her airways aren't getting removed. That could cause anything from minor breathing problems to a serious sinus infection.
     
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  9. Oscar Leigh
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    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member

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    Ultimately, this is a question of how realistic you want to be. It's not really a realistic advantage. But it's often portrayed as such by less realistic things. So do you want to be those? Is this unrealistic point worth it?
     
  10. Mikmaxs
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    Mikmaxs Active Member

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    Along with hunger and thirst, she still knows when she has to go. (I already considered this, and decided it was the easiest option.)
    I hadn't thought of sneezing, though, which could cause some interesting problems.
     
  11. Oscar Leigh
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    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member

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    Seems like your trying too hard to engineer this. I probably wouldn't do it.
     
  12. Mikmaxs
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    Mikmaxs Active Member

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    Oh, it's absolutely a disadvantage. It was never meant to be a good thing. I'm intentionally handicapping her, both to give me something to do for otherwise uninteresting scenes, and to facilitate some world building.
     
  13. Sifunkle
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    Sifunkle Dis Member

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    I'm probably being a bit obtuse, but 'sensation' is a pretty broad umbrella that basically covers any communication to your central nervous system from the external or internal environment. 'Loss of sensation' is quite literally anaesthesia - so if you're talking a body-wide thing, basically the character would be rendered unconscious and unable to adapt in any way to whatever situation s/he was in.

    Assuming that this isn't what you're after, I think you need to specify which elements of sensation are missing: pressure/touch, smell/taste, sight, pain (superficial, or deep too?), proprioception, distension of organs, blood pressure, carbon dioxide detection... etc.

    Perhaps you're approaching this from the wrong direction, and it would be more productive to envision the situations you want the character to struggle with, then reverse-engineer what the problem must be.

    Happy to try and help, but I think a bit more information is needed. Good luck, anyway!
     
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  14. Mikmaxs
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    Mikmaxs Active Member

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    Okay, more context, since it seems to be necessary:
    Specifically, she's lost all sense of touch. Her other four senses are completely intact, and her body is still working fine, but she is no longer feeling anything that she touches.
    This was done to her intentionally by a third party, as a sort of sink-or-swim 'training' exercize.

    More story context to make this make sense: She has the supernatural ability to detect life force around her, as a sort of 'Sixth sense'. She doesn't have any practice using this sense, though, and relies entirely on her five mortal senses to move around. The idea is that she's having one of her mortal senses shut down to help her focus on using her supernatural sense to locate things around her. (It's been done before, but normally the character ends up blinded instead.)
     
  15. Jack Asher
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    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

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    ...
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    Do you think I sense people around me by touching them instead of looking at them?
     
  16. Mikmaxs
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    Mikmaxs Active Member

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    No, but it's about awareness, not just line of sight.

    The sense she's trying to learn isn't just another way of looking at stuff. In fact, it's a crummy replacement for vision, because it doesn't extend very far and can't convey color. It's closer to a spidey sense, giving information you can't see or feel about nearby objects. (A sense of it's 'Magical charge', so to speak.)
     
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  17. Kate Sen
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    Kate Sen Member

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    Another thing, she may need to take more time making decisions she is not used to making. For example, are those ulcers on the feet so bad that I should not walk on them? Without the sensory feedback one needs to decide based on things other than pain. Is this cup of tea safe to drink or is it still too hot? May need someone else's opinion on that.

    If she has any precasting nervous habits that rely on sensation of pain to cause her to stop, that could result in unexpected self harm too. For example, does she have an unfortunate habit to punch something hard slightly as stress relief, or pulling her own hair (pulling it out now instead of the usual gentle tug).
     
  18. Sifunkle
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    Sifunkle Dis Member

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    Part of the point of my previous message was that (despite popular misconception) there are far more than five senses. Basically a nerve fibre attaches to a biological molecule called a receptor. What type of receptor it is (what physical force or chemical it interacts with) governs what 'sense' is involved. It's only when it reaches the cerebral cortex in the brain that it is consciously interpreted as 'Pressure on left pinky toe tip' or 'Aniseed taste in back of mouth' or whatever - because the brain knows what nerve is attached to what receptor at what point in the body - until then it's just meaningless electrical current.

    It probably sounds like I'm overcomplicating the idea you're onto (and I am), but I'm hoping that probing deeper will give you ideas to refine your overall concept!

    'Touch' is actually an interpretation of several different sensations. Probably the most prominent are pressure on and stretch in the skin. You also have pressure receptors deeper in: when those are activated (in addition to the skin nerves), you can tell that a touch is heavier.

    Other sensations (telling hot/cold, pain, etc) are independent of 'touch', but are often perceived as the same thing because they often co-occur (e.g. if you touch an ice block, your finger feels both cold and pressure/stretch). But if you hold your hand above a lit candle, you'll feel heat (and maybe pain), but not 'touch'.

    Proprioception is another interesting one: the ability of the brain to interpret where its body parts are positioned in the absence of vision/touch/etc. E.g. being able to clasp your hands behind your back without looking or feeling your way there. Proprioception also (sort of) operates on stretch: each muscle body has a receptor called a 'muscle spindle' that fires off when the muscle contracts; the brain integrates the signal from various muscles to guess at where your hand (or whatever) must be in space.

    It's worth considering that the different types of sensation vary in the quality of information provided. E.g. if you rested a penny on the knuckle of your right middle finger, pressure/stretch might tell you that that's exactly what's going on; if you burnt that same knuckle with a cigarette lighter, heat and pain alone might only tell you that you'd burnt somewhere on the back of your hand (until you used your other senses to zoom in on exactly where you'd hurt yourself). This is basically because you have far more pressure/stretch receptors spread over your skin, and not nearly as many heat/pain ones (pretty much equivalent to the megapixels a camera can manage: resolution). Different parts of your body also have different concentrations of receptors (which is why fingers, lips, etc are better for touching than shoulder blades and the top of your head). Look up 'sensory homunculus' in Google Images for a ... kinda creepy looking... representation of that.

    So you might decide that your character only loses the ability to detect pressure and stretch. That means she'll still be able to feel pain, heat, etc. She'll still have proprioception, so she'll still be able to move her limbs in a normal fashion (e.g. walking), but she might struggle to, e.g. close her hand at the right time to catch a ball, or compensate when she stands on an unexpected rock. I'd expect it would feel much like getting up with a 'dead leg' and staggering around clumsily until the blood flow returns and the nerves come alive again (when you get 'pins and needles', etc). Presumably her proprioception would become better with practice (in the absence of pressure/stretch) and she'd be able to partly compensate. She'd also have an overall sense of balance (from the vestibular system in her inner ears).

    Or maybe she can 'touch' but not feel heat or pain... suddenly the torture techniques of her interrogators are far less effective (although as others have pointed out, in the absence of pain, she'd want to be mindful that her body is still being damaged).

    There's a lot of scope here to come up with a unique problem for her! But I've probably already bored you to death, so I'll stop now!
     
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  19. Oscar Leigh
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    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member

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    I'd go with @Sifunkle and reverse engineer it. What do you want it to produce? Then worry about how to produce it.
     
  20. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    This actually is possible in the real world. The disease is called leprosy and doing a bit of research on it should give you ideas on how this condition will affect your character.
     
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  21. Mikmaxs
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    Mikmaxs Active Member

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    That's actually *extremely* helpful.
    Thinking about it, I'll probably just get rid of her 'Touch', and possibly hot and cold, but leave pain and proprioception. (It's a training exercize, it'd be no good if she killed herself because she couldn't feel pain.
    Thank you!
     
  22. Justin Phillips
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    Justin Phillips Active Member

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    she'll have to be real careful and not cut herself, burn her hand on the stove, stuff like that. without the ability for her brain to read messages from her nerves, she could bleed out before she realizes. funny enough, my unfinished short story deals with this idea, in a very small way, you can check it out in the fantasy short story section. Its somewhere in part 2 of the story.

    Oh and research phantom pains. I think that this would really add a layer.

    If it's a training exercise, I think it would be more effective to learn to train with no pain receptors, trusting your body's every move, because the wrong move could mean death.
     
    Last edited: Apr 20, 2016
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  23. A man called Valance
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    A man called Valance Active Member

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    Happy Birthday Justin Phillips. (Your birthday is featured on the member list today... couldn't let you get away with it!) Have a good one.
     
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  24. psychotick
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    psychotick Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hi,

    So she'sshut down her sense of feeling to concentrate on this other new magical sense? I don't buy that. Not that shutting down other senses wouldn't help, but rather that that would be the sense you would go for. In your world sensorium touch is a relatively minor sense. The big one is of course sight which accounts for something like eighty or ninety percent of the sensory data coming in. That's why the old trope about closing your eyes to concentrate on other things - like a spinning, floating ball in the air around you that zaps you occasionally unless you hit it with your light sabre, works.

    And really we all know it works. How many times have you closed your eyes to enjoy that first delicious sip of coffee etc? It's an almost instinctive action.

    Cheers, Greg.
     
  25. Mikmaxs
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    Mikmaxs Active Member

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    I'm avoiding this for two reasons.
    One, it'd been done. To. Death. Off the top of my head I can think of at least a half dozen books and movies that have done the 'Take away your sight to enhance your other senses' thing. It's an old cliche.

    Second, the magical sense is in no way equivalent to sight. This is my in-story reason; the magical sense has vastly more in common with touch than it does with vision. You don't see with it, you feel. (You can 'feel' things several feet away, and particularly magical objects can be felt at a distance, but what is felt grows blurry and nonspecific, fast.)
     
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