Interindividual differences in interoception modulate behavior and brain responses in emotional inference

Author: Amelie M Hübner1, Ima Trempler2, Ricarda I Schubotz2
1 Department of Psychology, University of Muenster, Germany. Electronic address:
2 Department of Psychology, University of Muenster, Germany; Otto-Creutzfeldt-Center for Cognitive and Behavioral Neuroscience, University of Muenster, Germany.
Conference/Journal: Neuroimage
Date published: 2022 Jul 27
Other: Special Notes: doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2022.119524. , Word Count: 261

Emotional experiences are proposed to arise from contextualized perception of bodily responses, also referred to as interoceptive inferences. The recognition of emotions benefits from adequate access to one's own interoceptive information. However, direct empirical evidence of interoceptive inferences and their neural basis is still lacking. In the present fMRI study healthy volunteers performed a probabilistic emotion classification task with videotaped dynamically unfolding facial expressions. In a first step, we aimed to determine functional areas involved in the processing of dynamically unfolding emotional expressions. We then tested whether individuals with higher interoceptive accuracy (IAcc), as assessed by the Heartbeat detection task (HDT), or higher interoceptive sensitivity (IS), as assessed by the Multidimensional Assessment of Interoceptive Awareness, Version 2 (MAIA-2), benefit more from the contextually given likelihood of emotional valence and whether brain regions reflecting individual IAcc and/or IS play a role in this. Individuals with higher IS benefitted more from the biased probability of emotional valence. Brain responses to more predictable emotions elicited a bilateral activity pattern comprising the inferior frontal gyrus and the posterior insula. Importantly, individual IAcc scores positively covaried with brain responses to more surprising and less predictable emotional expressions in the insula and caudate nucleus. We show for the first time that IAcc score is associated with enhanced processing of interoceptive prediction errors, particularly in the anterior insula. A higher IS score seems more likely to be associated with a stronger weighting of attention to interoceptive changes processed by the posterior insula and ventral prefrontal cortex.

Keywords: emotion recognition; emotional inference; interoception; predictive coding.

PMID: 35907498 DOI: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2022.119524