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(also kinesthesis, proprioreception, muscle sense), the ability of man and animals to perceive and evaluate change in the relative positions and in the movements of the parts of the body.
N. M. Sechenov was the first to study the relationship between information about the position in space of various parts of the body and the degree of contraction of each muscle, on the one hand, and movement regulation and learning about the environment, on the other. He referred to kinesthesia as the “dark muscle sense.” During the contraction and stretching of muscles, nerve impulses arising in the kinesthetic receptors (muscle spindles, Golgi apparatus, and possibly the pacinian corpuscles) reach the central nervous system via sensory nerve fibers. The set of peripheral and central nervous formations participating in the analysis of this information was called the motor analyzer by I. P. Pavlov. The perfection and delicacy of coordination of motor reactions, such as locomotion in man and animals, are attributable to the steady accumulation throughout life of constantly regenerated connections between the neurons of the motor analyzer and those of the other analyzers (visual, acoustic, and so forth).
Kinesthesia plays an important role in the development of perceptions because it serves as the basis for control of all the other sense organs. Thus, visual appraisal of the distance of an object as it is approached is mediated by muscle sense.
O. M. BENIUMOV