Primary interoceptive cortex activity during simulated experiences of the body

Wilson-Mendenhall, C. D., Henriques, A., Barsalou, L. W. and Barrett, L. F. (2019) Primary interoceptive cortex activity during simulated experiences of the body. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 31(2), pp. 221-235. (doi: 10.1162/jocn_a_01346) (PMID:30277431) (PMCID:PMC6540780)

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Studies of the classic exteroceptive sensory systems (e.g., vision, touch) consistently demonstrate that vividly imagining a sensory experience of the world – simulating it – is associated with increased activity in the corresponding primary sensory cortex. We hypothesized, analogously, that simulating internal bodily sensations would be associated with increased neural activity in primary interoceptive cortex. An immersive, language-based mental imagery paradigm was used to test this hypothesis (e.g., imagine your heart pounding during a roller coaster ride, your face drenched in sweat during a workout). During two neuroimaging experiments, participants listened to vividly described situations and imagined “being there” in each scenario. In Study 1, we observed significantly heightened activity in primary interoceptive cortex (of dorsal posterior insula) during imagined experiences involving vivid internal sensations. This effect was specific to interoceptive simulation: it was not observed during a separate affect focus condition in Study 1, nor during an independent Study 2 that did not involve detailed simulation of internal sensations (instead involving simulation of other sensory experiences). These findings underscore the large-scale predictive architecture of the brain and reveal that words can be powerful drivers of bodily experiences.

Item Type:Articles
Additional Information:Preparation of this manuscript was supported by an NIH Director’s Pioneer Award DPI OD003312 to Lisa Feldman Barrett at Northeastern University with a subcontract to Lawrence Barsalou at Emory University.
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Barsalou, Professor Lawrence
Authors: Wilson-Mendenhall, C. D., Henriques, A., Barsalou, L. W., and Barrett, L. F.
College/School:College of Science and Engineering > School of Psychology
Journal Name:Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience
Publisher:Massachusetts Institute of Technology
ISSN (Online):1530-8898
Published Online:02 October 2018
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2018 Massachusetts Institute of Technology
First Published:First published in Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience 31:221-235
Publisher Policy:Reproduced in accordance with the publisher copyright policy

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