Interoception is the ability to perceive one's internal body state including visceral sensations. Heart-focused interoception has received particular attention, in part due to a readily available task for behavioural assessment, but also due to accumulating evidence for a significant role in emotional experience, decision-making and clinical disorders such as anxiety and depression. Improved understanding of the underlying neural correlates is important to promote development of anatomical-functional models and suitable intervention strategies. In the present meta-analysis, nine studies reporting neural activity associated with interoceptive attentiveness (i.e. focused attention to a particular interoceptive signal for a given time interval) to one's heartbeat were submitted to a multilevel kernel density analysis. The findings corroborated an extended network associated with heart-focused interoceptive attentiveness including the posterior right and left insula, right claustrum, precentral gyrus and medial frontal gyrus. Right-hemispheric dominance emphasizes non-verbal information processing with the posterior insula presumably serving as the major gateway for cardioception. Prefrontal neural activity may reflect both top-down attention deployment and processing of feed-forward cardioceptive information, possibly orchestrated via the claustrum.
This article is part of the themed issue ‘Interoception beyond homeostasis: affect, cognition and mental health’.
- Accepted June 22, 2016.
- © 2016 The Author(s)
Published by the Royal Society. All rights reserved.