Interoception, Affect, and Cognition in Older Adults

Author: Marcus Haustein1,2, Emily B K Thomas3, Kodi Scheer1, Natalie L Denburg1,3
1 Department of Neurology, Division of Cognitive Neuroscience, University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine, Iowa, USA.
2 Department of Emergency Medicine, Great River Health System, West Burlington, Iowa, USA.
3 Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, University of Iowa College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Iowa, USA.
Conference/Journal: Exp Aging Res
Date published: 2023 Mar 5
Other: Special Notes: doi: 10.1080/0361073X.2023.2183704. , Word Count: 217

Interoception is the detection of signals that arise from within the body. Interoceptive sensitivity has been found to be associated with affect and cognition among younger adults, and examination of these relationships in older adult samples is beginning to emerge. Here, we take an exploratory approach to determine how demographic, affective, and cognitive variables relate to interoceptive sensitivity in neurologically normal older adults, aged 60-91 years old. Ninety-one participants completed a comprehensive neuropsychological battery, self-report questionnaires, and a heartbeat counting task to measure interoceptive sensitivity. Our findings revealed several relationships: 1) interoceptive sensitivity was inversely correlated with measures of positive emotionality: participants with higher interoceptive sensitivity tended to have lower levels of positive affect and trait extraversion; 2) interoceptive sensitivity was found to positively correlate with cognition: participants who performed better on the heartbeat-counting task also tended to perform better on a measure of delayed verbal memory; and 3) when examining the predictors of interoceptive sensitivity in a single hierarchical regression model, higher interoceptive sensitivity was related to: higher time estimation, lower positive affect, lower extraversion, and higher verbal memory. In total, the model accounted for 38% of the variability in interoceptive sensitivity (R2 = .38). These results suggest that, among older adults, interoceptive sensitivity is facilitative for aspects of cognition but perhaps disruptive for certain aspects of emotional experience.

PMID: 36871576 DOI: 10.1080/0361073X.2023.2183704