Interoception

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In a recent article, The Gurdian‘s science writer David Robson describes writes about Interoception – hidden senses that shapes our well being. “There’s growing evidence that signals sent from our internal organs to the brain play a major role in regulating emotions and fending off anxiety and depression”.

In the article, the term “interoception” is defined as “all the signals from your internal organs, including your cardiovascular system, your lungs, your gut, your bladder and your kidneys.” While explaining the concept, Robson writes:

  • Much of the processing of these signals takes place below conscious awareness: you won’t be aware of the automatic feedback between brain and body that helps to keep your blood pressure level, for instance, or the signals that help to stabilise your blood sugar levels. But many of these sensations – such as tension in your muscles, the clenching of your stomach, or the beating of your heart – should be available to the conscious mind, at least some of the time.
  • Perhaps most intriguingly, the new awareness of interoception can help us to understand why certain physical exercises can be so good for our mental health. For one thing, regular workouts may change the nature of the signals that your brain receives.
  • The practice of exercise should lead you to be more attentive to those signals, so that you are also more accurate in reading and interpreting the changes that you detect.
  • Interoception, it seems, is one of our most important senses. And by paying a little bit more attention to the signals it sends you, you may be healthier in body and mind.

Some researchers who are involved in this area of research spoke with the Guardian.

Prof Manos Tsakiris, a psychologist at Royal Holloway, University of London told the Guardian “We are seeing an exponential growth in interoceptive research”.

Dr Helen Weng at the University of California San Francisco, told the Guardian “Researchers and clinicians are recognising interoception as a key mechanism to mental and physical health, where understanding our body’s signals helps us understand and regulate emotional and physical states”.

Science writer Caroline Williams, writes in her book Move “Interoceptive feedback from the muscles can tell you something, unconsciously, about what you can achieve in the world. After strength training, your body feels that it can cope, and so, on some level, you feel a bit more in control of life.”