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Interoception: The Sense of the Body's Inner World

Interoception is the ability to perceive and interpret the signals that come from within our body, such as heartbeat, breathing, hunger, thirst, pain, temperature, and emotions. It is often considered as the eighth sense, along with the five external senses (sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch) and the two internal senses (proprioception and vestibular). Interoception is essential for our survival, as it helps us to regulate our bodily functions, respond to our needs, and adapt to our environment. However, interoception is also essential for our psychological well-being, as it enables us to be more self-aware and mindful of our inner states and feelings.


This post is the first in a series exploring the possible intersections between interoception and heart rate variability. In this post, let’s explore the basics of interception.


Key Components of Interoception


According to the interoceptive awareness model proposed by Craig (2009), interoception involves three key components: interoceptive accuracy, interoceptive sensibility, and interoceptive awareness. These components can be briefly described as follows:


  • Interoceptive accuracy: the objective ability to detect and measure the signals from the body, such as heart rate, blood pressure, or skin conductance. This can be assessed by comparing the subjective reports of the participants with the physiological recordings of the signals.

  • Interoceptive sensibility: the subjective perception and evaluation of the signals from the body, such as how intense, pleasant, or unpleasant they are. This can be assessed by using self-report questionnaires or scales that measure the frequency, clarity, and valence of the interoceptive sensations.

  • Interoceptive awareness: the conscious integration and interpretation of the signals from the body, such as what they mean, how they relate to the context, and how they influence behavior and emotions. This can be assessed by using tasks that require the participants to reflect on their interoceptive experiences and report their metacognitive judgments or insights.


Interoception is a vital sense that allows us to perceive and interpret the signals that come from within our body. It involves three key components: interoceptive accuracy, interoceptive sensibility, and interoceptive awareness. Interoception is important for our physical and mental health, as it helps us to regulate our bodily functions, respond to our needs, and adapt to our environment. Interoception is also important for our psychological well-being, as it enables us to be more self-aware and mindful of our inner states and feelings. Interoception can be trained and improved by using various methods, such as mindfulness meditation, biofeedback, or interoceptive exposure. By enhancing our interoceptive skills, we can improve our quality of life and well-being.


References


Craig, A. D. (2009). How do you feel--now? The anterior insula and human awareness. Nature reviews. Neuroscience, 10(1), 59-70.

Füstös, J., Gramann, K., Herbert, B. M., & Pollatos, O. (2013). On the embodiment of emotion regulation: interoceptive awareness facilitates reappraisal. Social cognitive and affective neuroscience, 8(8), 911-917.

Mehling, W. E., Gopisetty, V., Daubenmier, J., Price, C. J., Hecht, F. M., & Stewart, A. (2011). Body awareness: construct and self-report measures. PloS one, 6(4), e18785.

Paulus, M. P., & Stein, M. B. (2010). Interoception in anxiety and depression. Brain structure and function, 214(5-6), 451-463.

Tsakiris, M. (2017). The multisensory basis of the self: from body to identity to others. The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 70(4), 597-609.

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