Heart Rate Variability Modulates Interoceptive Accuracy

Author: Alexander Lischke1, Rike Pahnke2, Anett Mau-Moeller2, Matthias Weippert2
Affiliation: <sup>1</sup> Department of Psychology, University of Greifswald, Greifswald, Germany. <sup>2</sup> Department of Sport Science, University of Rostock, Rostock, Germany.
Conference/Journal: Front Neurosci
Date published: 2021 Jan 11
Other: Volume ID: 14 , Pages: 612445 , Special Notes: doi: 10.3389/fnins.2020.612445. , Word Count: 240

Our emotional experiences depend on our interoceptive ability to perceive and interpret changes in our autonomous nervous system. An inaccurate perception and interpretation of autonomic changes impairs our ability to understand and regulate our emotional reactions. Impairments in emotion understanding and emotion regulation increase our risk for mental disorders, indicating that interoceptive deficits play an important role in the etiology and pathogenesis of mental disorders. We, thus, need measures to identify those of us whose interoceptive deficits impair their emotion understanding and emotion regulation. Here, we used cardiac measures to investigate how our ability to engage prefrontal and (para-)limbic brain region regions affects our ability to perceive and interpret cardiac changes. We administered a heartbeat detection task to a sample of healthy individuals (n = 113) whose prefrontal-(para-) limbic engagement had been determined on basis of a heart rate variability recording. We found a positive association between heartbeat detection and heart rate variability, implying that individuals with higher heart rate variability were more accurate in heartbeat detection than individuals with lower heart rate variability. These findings suggest that our interoceptive accuracy depends on our prefrontal-(para-)limbic engagement during the perception and interpretation of cardiac changes. Our findings also show that cardiac measures may be useful to investigate the association between interoceptive accuracy and prefrontal-(para-)limbic engagement in a time- and cost-efficient manner.

Keywords: attention; emotion; heart rate variability; heartbeat detection; interoception; vagal tone.

PMID: 33536870 PMCID: PMC7849500 DOI: 10.3389/fnins.2020.612445