MCAT Content / Other Senses / Kinesthetic Sense

Kinesthetic Sense

Topic: Other Senses

Kinesthesia is the awareness of the position and movement of the parts of the body using sensory organs, which are known as proprioceptors, located in joints and muscles.

Kinesthesia is the awareness of the position and movement of the parts of the body using sensory organs, which are known as proprioceptors, in joints and muscles. Kinesthesia is a critical component in muscle memory and hand-eye coordination.

While the terms proprioception and kinesthesia are often used interchangeably, they have many different components. Usually the kinesthetic sense is differentiated from proprioception by excluding the sense of equilibrium or balance from kinesthesia. An inner ear infection, for example, might degrade the sense of balance. This would degrade the proprioceptive sense, but not the kinesthetic sense. The affected individual would be able to walk, but only by using the sense of sight to maintain balance; the person would be unable to walk with eyes closed. Another difference in proprioception and kinesthesia is that kinesthesia focuses on the body’s motion or movements, while proprioception focuses more on the body’s awareness of its movements and behaviors. This has led to the notion that kinesthesia is more behavioral, and proprioception is more cognitive.

Both proprioception and kinesthesia rely upon the vestibular system. The vestibular sense contributes to our ability to maintain balance and body posture. The primary sensory organs (utricle, saccule, and the three semicircular canals) of this system are located next to the cochlea in the inner ear. The vestibular organs are fluid-filled and have hair cells, similar to the ones found in the auditory system, which respond to the movement of the head and gravitational forces.


Key Points

• Kinesthesia is the awareness of the position and movement of the parts of the body using sensory organs, which are known as proprioceptors, located in joints and muscles. Kinesthesia is a key component in muscle memory and hand-eye coordination.

• While the terms proprioception and kinesthesia are often used interchangeably, they have many different components.


Key Terms

proprioception: the sense of the position of parts of the body, relative to other neighboring parts of the body

kinesthesia: proprioception or static position sense; the perception of the position and posture of the body; also, more broadly, including the motion of the body as well

vestibular sense: contributes to our ability to maintain balance and body posture based on the organs in the inner ear


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