In the Body's Eye: The computational anatomy of interoceptive inference

Author: Micah Allen1,2, Andrew Levy3, Thomas Parr3, Karl J Friston3
1 Centre of Functionally Integrative Neuroscience, Aarhus University Hospital, Denmark.
2 Cambridge Psychiatry, Cambridge University, Cambridge, United Kingdom.
3 Wellcome Centre for Human Neuroimaging, University College London, London, United Kingdom.
Conference/Journal: PLoS Comput Biol
Date published: 2022 Sep 13
Other: Volume ID: 18 , Issue ID: 9 , Pages: e1010490 , Special Notes: doi: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1010490. , Word Count: 157

A growing body of evidence highlights the intricate linkage of exteroceptive perception to the rhythmic activity of the visceral body. In parallel, interoceptive inference theories of affective perception and self-consciousness are on the rise in cognitive science. However, thus far no formal theory has emerged to integrate these twin domains; instead, most extant work is conceptual in nature. Here, we introduce a formal model of cardiac active inference, which explains how ascending cardiac signals entrain exteroceptive sensory perception and uncertainty. Through simulated psychophysics, we reproduce the defensive startle reflex and commonly reported effects linking the cardiac cycle to affective behaviour. We further show that simulated 'interoceptive lesions' blunt affective expectations, induce psychosomatic hallucinations, and exacerbate biases in perceptual uncertainty. Through synthetic heart-rate variability analyses, we illustrate how the balance of arousal-priors and visceral prediction errors produces idiosyncratic patterns of physiological reactivity. Our model thus offers a roadmap for computationally phenotyping disordered brain-body interaction.

PMID: 36099315 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1010490