Interactions between cardiac activity and conscious somatosensory perception.

Author: Motyka P1,2, Grund M2, Forschack N2,3, Al E2,4, Villringer A2,4, Gaebler M2,4,5
1Faculty of Psychology, University of Warsaw, Warsaw, Poland.
2Department of Neurology, Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Leipzig, Germany.
3Experimental Psychology and Methods, Faculty of Life Sciences, University of Leipzig, Leipzig, Germany.
4MindBrainBody Institute at the Berlin School of Mind and Brain, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Berlin, Germany.
5Leipzig Research Centre for Civilization Diseases (LIFE), University of Leipzig, Leipzig, Germany.
Conference/Journal: Psychophysiology.
Date published: 2019 Jun 27
Other: Volume ID: e13424 , Special Notes: doi: 10.1111/psyp.13424. [Epub ahead of print] , Word Count: 177

Fluctuations in the heart's activity can modulate the access of external stimuli to consciousness. The link between perceptual awareness and cardiac signals has been investigated mainly in the visual and auditory domain. Here, we investigated whether the phase of the cardiac cycle and the prestimulus heart rate influence conscious somatosensory perception. We also tested how conscious detection of somatosensory stimuli affects the heart rate. Electrocardiograms (ECG) of 33 healthy volunteers were recorded while applying near-threshold electrical pulses at a fixed intensity to the left index finger. Conscious detection was not uniformly distributed across the cardiac cycle but significantly higher in diastole than in systole. We found no evidence that the heart rate before a stimulus influenced its detection, but hits (correctly detected somatosensory stimuli) led to a more pronounced cardiac deceleration than misses. Our findings demonstrate interactions between cardiac activity and conscious somatosensory perception, which highlights the importance of internal bodily states for sensory processing beyond the auditory and visual domain.

© 2019 Society for Psychophysiological Research.

KEYWORDS: cardiac cycle; heart rate; interoception; perceptual awareness; somatosensory perception

PMID: 31245848 DOI: 10.1111/psyp.13424