From the inside out: Interoceptive feedback facilitates the integration of visceral signals for efficient sensory processing: Interoceptive feedback facilitates sensory processing

Author: Amanda C Marshall1, Antje Gentsch-Ebrahimzadeh1, Simone Sch├╝tz-Bosbach1
Affiliation: <sup>1</sup> Department of Psychology, General and Experimental Psychology Unit, LMU Munich, Germany.
Conference/Journal: Neuroimage
Date published: 2022 Feb 16
Other: Special Notes: doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2022.119011. , Word Count: 320

Neuroscientific studies have mainly focused on the way humans perceive and interact with the external world. Recent work in the interoceptive domain indicates that the brain predictively models information from inside the body such as the heartbeat and that the efficiency with which this is executed can have implications for exteroceptive processing. However, to date direct evidence underpinning these hypotheses is lacking. Here, we show how the brain predictively refines neural resources to process afferent cardiac feedback and uses these interoceptive cues to enable more efficient processing of external sensory information. Participants completed a repetition-suppression paradigm consisting of a neutral repeating face. During the first face presentation, they heard auditory feedback of their heartbeat which either coincided with the systole of the cardiac cycle, the time at which cardiac events are registered by the brain or the diastole during which the brain receives no internal cardiac feedback. We used electroencephalography to measure the heartbeat evoked potential (HEP) as well as auditory (AEP) and visual evoked potentials (VEP). Exteroceptive cardiac feedback which coincided with the systole produced significantly higher HEP amplitudes relative to feedback timed to the diastole. Elevation of the HEP in this condition was followed by significant suppression of the VEP in response to the repeated neutral face and a stepwise decrease of AEP amplitude to repeated heartbeat feedback. Our results hereby show that exteroceptive heartbeat feedback coinciding with interoceptive signals at systole enhanced interoceptive cardiac processing. Furthermore, the same cue facilitating interoceptive integration enabled efficient suppression of a visual stimulus, as well as repetition suppression of the AEP across successive auditory heartbeat feedback. Our findings provide evidence that the alignment of external to internal signals can enhance the efficiency of interoceptive processing and that cues facilitating this process in either domain have beneficial effects for internal as well as external sensory processing.

Keywords: Cardiac biofeedback; EEG; exteroceptive processing; heartbeat evoked potential; interoception; predictive coding.

PMID: 35182753 DOI: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2022.119011