5 Wild Ways Your Body Responds When It Gets Its Signals Crossed

Oh, no. My hand has a mind of its own
5 Wild Ways Your Body Responds When It Gets Its Signals Crossed

Your body’s great at taking in information. Why, just consider your eye sockets. You’ve got these two windows in your skull, and they let light pour in and land right on your brain.

Except, that’s not how sight works. Light enters tiny holes in your eyes, and when it reaches your retina, the image is upside down. The image becomes an electrical signal that travels down nerves to a whole other part of your brain. You imagine that those signals represent stuff in front of you, and you’re right to do so, but you only do that out of habit. They’re not objects, they’re signals, and it’s up to you to interpret those signals correctly. 

Sometimes, you don’t interpret signals correctly at all, and your body goes haywire. For example, you may end up…

Crying When You Poop

People are very concerned about why they cry when they poop. As proof of this — extremely scientific proof — we can look to the web, where people keep asking why they cry when they poop. Often, they receive only mockery in response. Sometimes, readers will assume these questioners feel pain when they poop, in which case the obvious prescription is ass cream, applied after first cleaning off all the poop. 

Some of these criers aren’t in physical or emotional pain, however. For these people, another explanation exists: Defecation shifts your intra-abdominal pressure, and pressure shifting around down there also gets pressure shifting all over. A chain reaction of squeezing results, and your nose may run, and your eyes may water. 

crying toilet

Tony Mucci/Unsplash

If only tissues were in easy reach.

Poop taketh away, but poop also giveth. Bowel movements may also stimulate your vagus nerve, swelling you with euphoria. Research into this matter has been conducted mainly by one specific Princeton gastroenterologist, who likens this feeling to an orgasm. This will be old news to some readers, who already make it a point to combine defecation and orgasms routinely

Alien Hand Syndrome

In 1908, a German doctor observed a new syndrome in one of his patients. She had had a stroke and had been unable to use her left hand. Now, she had somewhat recovered, and her left hand was performing all sorts of actions. Only problem was, it was performing those actions completely outside her control. She was experiencing “strangeness,” she said. You might have seen this same thing exhibited by the title character in Dr. Strangelove, which is why the condition is sometimes called Dr. Strangelove syndrome.

Idle Hands

Columbia Pictures

It was also portrayed in a more prestigious comedy, 1999’s Idle Hands

In 1972, the medical community assigned the condition a formal name, which sounds even more ridiculous: alien hand syndrome. When you have alien hand syndrome, your brain is still sending commands to your hand. There’s nowhere else your hand can be getting its commands from. You’re just no longer conscious of sending it these commands. The most common explanation is that the patient has sliced their brain in some manner, such when an injury separates the hemispheres. Yeah, when you chop up the brain, you should expect a few side effects. 

The Arnold Coughing Reflex

Let’s say you rub your ear with a Q-tip. You rub your outer ear with a Q-tip — you should never insert a Q-tip into your ear. We know the swab was seemingly sized precisely so it can comfortably go in your earhole, but that’s no excuse. Today, we are talking only about stimulating the external ear, a body part also known as the pinna or external auditory meatus.


Dylann Hendricks/Unsplash

Both those sound like words for “penis,” but they both mean “ear.” 

With some people, when you rub their ear, it stimulates that old vagus nerve again. Here, the consequence isn’t an orgasm, though swabbing the ear can feel very satisfying. Instead, they suffer a pointless coughing fit

The issue here is that one particular branch of the vagus nerve gets jolted. It’s called Arnold’s nerve, and this is where we can no longer take anything to do with this phenomenon seriously. Though “Arnold” was the surname of the first doctor to observe the ear-coughing connection (a German doctor again, this one named Friedrich Arnold), we should not name body parts after surnames that also sound like first names. Body parts, when they’re named after people, should have names like “fallopian tube” and “Golgi apparatus.” They shouldn’t be named “Tim.” 

Rubbing Your Eyes Feels Like Being Hit by Light

Let’s return now to the eyes. Like we said before, you don’t perceive light simply because light falls on your brain. You perceive light because light reaches your retina and stimulates your optic nerve, and the signal from that nerve is what reaches your brain. Stuff besides light can stimulate your optic nerve as well. Your brain perceives these stimuli as light, too, because there’s nothing else it can perceive them as.

Rub your eyes right now — hard. Not too hard, not hard enough to push your eyes down into your throat, but apply some mild pressure on your eyelids. 

rubbing eyes


For an optimal article experience, stop rubbing and open your eyes before returning to reading.

You feel like you see light. The phenomenon has a name — you induced a phosphene

The very first time you experienced a phosphene (probably before you were even able to create long-term memories), it might have given you a bit of a shock, but you have since learned to accept them and ignore them. And speaking of shocks, electricity is another method of inducing phosphenes. You can stick an electrode right into your visual cortex, and your brain will interpret this weird input as visual stimuli. That’s not advanced technology, by the way. We first tried that electrode experiment nearly a century ago. 

LSD Hooks Introspection With Sensory Perception

If you want to rewire your brain, you don’t need invasive electrodes. You can just do the responsible thing and take drugs. 

LSD does marvelous things to the brain, according to several people we consulted, all of whom were high. For a closer and more detailed look at this, Dutch and British scientists placed a series of research subjects in an fMRI machine and gave them LSD. Some of them reported feeling mellow. Some of them reported feeling yellow. Some of them reported feeling nothing in particular (some of them had been given placebos). 

LSD brain scans

Current Biology

These are either the scans or colorful LSD blotter paper.

In those who reported “tripping like crazy,” the scientists found new communication going on within their brains. Parts of the brain normally devoted to introspection and parts of the brain normally devoted to sensory perception had signals passing between them in new and unusual ways. The subjects experienced “ego dissolution” — they felt one with the world. And their brain scans backed this up, because the subjects now looked inward and looked outward as a single action. 

Does this mean we should confront all egomaniacs and administer LSD to them by force? Almost certainly yes. The ego dissolution may vanish as the drug wears off, or maybe we’ll get lucky and change them forever. 

Follow Ryan Menezes on Twitter for more stuff no one should see.

Scroll down for the next article
Forgot Password?