Neural correlates of interoception: Effects of interoceptive focus and relationship to dimensional measures of body awareness

Emily R. Stern, Stephanie J. Grimaldi, Alexandra Muratore, James Murrough, Evan Leibu, Lazar Fleysher, Wayne K. Goodman, Katherine E. Burdick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Scopus citations


Interoception has been defined as the sensing of the physiological condition of the body, with interoceptive sensibility (IS) characterizing an individual's self-reported awareness of internal sensation. IS is a multidimensional construct including not only the tendency to be aware of sensation but also how sensations are interpreted, regulated, and used to inform behavior, with different dimensions relating to different aspects of health and disease. Here we investigated neural mechanisms of interoception when healthy individuals attended to their heartbeat and skin temperature, and examined the relationship between neural activity during interoception and individual differences in self-reported IS using the Multidimensional Scale of Interoceptive Awareness (MAIA). Consistent with prior work, interoception activated a network involving insula and sensorimotor regions but also including occipital, temporal, and prefrontal cortex. Differences based on interoceptive focus (heartbeat vs skin temperature) were found in insula, sensorimotor regions, occipital cortex, and limbic areas. Factor analysis of MAIA dimensions revealed 3 dissociable components of IS in our dataset, only one of which was related to neural activity during interoception. Reduced scores on the third factor, which reflected reduced ability to control attention to body sensation and increased tendency to distract from and worry about aversive sensations, was associated with greater activation in many of the same regions as those involved in interoception, including insula, sensorimotor, anterior cingulate, and temporal cortex. These data suggest that self-rated interoceptive sensibility is related to altered activation in regions involved in monitoring body state, which has implications for disorders associated with abnormality of interoception. Hum Brain Mapp 38:6068–6082, 2017.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6068-6082
Number of pages15
JournalHuman Brain Mapping
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2017


  • body sensation
  • fMRI
  • individual differences
  • insula
  • interoception
  • somatosensory


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