In the course of my four-year curiosity project, I have read a lot about interoception. No single definition was a perfect representation of what I was learning. Instead, I took a little bit of learning from every source to generate a definition. Today, I want to share with you my definition of interoception.
sensation originating within the body and traveling to the central nervous system. It provides a moment to moment physiological representation of the body’s conscious and unconscious internal landscape.
What does that mean for function?
Interoception’s role is to survey the body, edit the information for relevance/importance/salience and communicate this information to the brain. When the interoceptive information is high amplitude enough that it is deemed salient and requires attention, the brain seeks to make meaning of the incoming sensation (“That’s the feeling of hunger, I will eat”; “That’s a sore throat, I may be sick”). This interoceptive body summary is the basis for regulation which provides internal order. Interoceptive signals serve to assist us in achieving and maintaining homeostasis which supports overall health and wellness. We rely on this interplay of physiological sensation (experience), significance, awareness, and interpretation. In representing multiple senses, interoception is multidimensional, complex, and an important contributor to health.
In fact, in future posts we will explore how interoception is linked to emotion, regulation, consciousness, embodiment, trauma, decision making, and more.
I recently discussed interoception with my mentor, Dr. Sarah Schoen, Ph.D., OTR/L. Click on the link to listen to the conversation!
Barrett, L.F. (2017). How emotions are made: The secret life of the brain. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
Quadt, L., Critchley, H., & Garfinkel, S. (2018). The neurobiology of interoception in health and disease. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1428(1), 112-128. https://doi.org/10.1111/nyas.13915
Tsakiris, M., & dePreester, H. (2018). The interoceptive mind: From homeostasis to awareness. Oxford University Press.