Interoception refers to the sensing of signals concerning the internal state of the body. Individual differences in interoceptive sensitivity are proposed to account for differences in affective processing, including the expression of anxiety. The majority of investigations of interoceptive accuracy focus on cardiac signals, typically using heartbeat detection tests and self-report measures. Consequently, little is known about how different organ-specific axes of interoception relate to each other or to symptoms of anxiety. Here, we compare interoception for cardiac and respiratory signals. We demonstrate a dissociation between cardiac and respiratory measures of interoceptive accuracy (i.e. task performance), yet a positive relationship between cardiac and respiratory measures of interoceptive awareness (i.e. metacognitive insight into own interoceptive ability). Neither interoceptive accuracy nor metacognitive awareness for cardiac and respiratory measures was related to touch acuity, an exteroceptive sense. Specific measures of interoception were found to be predictive of anxiety symptoms. Poor respiratory accuracy was associated with heightened anxiety score, while good metacognitive awareness for cardiac interoception was associated with reduced anxiety. These findings highlight that detection accuracies across different sensory modalities are dissociable and future work can better delineate their relationship to affective and cognitive constructs.
This article is part of the themed issue ‘Interoception beyond homeostasis: affect, cognition and mental health’.
- Accepted June 14, 2016.
- © 2016 The Author(s)
Published by the Royal Society. All rights reserved.