Interoception and psychopathology: A developmental neuroscience perspective


Murphy, Jennifer, Brewer, R., Catmur, Caroline and Bird, Geoffrey 2017. Interoception and psychopathology: A developmental neuroscience perspective. Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience. 23, pp. 45-56.
AuthorsMurphy, Jennifer, Brewer, R., Catmur, Caroline and Bird, Geoffrey

Interoception refers to the perception of the physiological condition of the body, including
hunger, temperature, and heart rate. There is a growing appreciation that interoception is
integral to higher-order cognition. Indeed, existing research indicates an association between
low interoceptive sensitivity and alexithymia (a difficulty identifying one’s own emotion),
underscoring the link between bodily and emotional awareness. Despite this appreciation, the
developmental trajectory of interoception across the lifespan remains under-researched, with
clear gaps in our understanding. This qualitative review and opinion paper provides a brief
overview of interoception, discussing its relevance for developmental psychopathology, and
highlighting measurement issues, before surveying the available work on interoception across
four stages of development: infancy, childhood, adolescence and late adulthood. Where gaps
in the literature addressing the development of interoception exist, we draw upon the
association between alexithymia and interoception, using alexithymia as a possible marker of
atypical interoception. Evidence indicates that interoceptive ability varies across development,
and that this variance correlates with established age-related changes in cognition and with
risk periods for the development of psychopathology. We suggest a theory within which
atypical interoception underlies the onset of psychopathology and risky behaviour in
adolescence, and the decreased socio-emotional competence observed in late adulthood.

KeywordsInteroception; Development; Psychopathology; Emotion; Insula; Alexithymia
JournalDevelopmental Cognitive Neuroscience
Journal citation23, pp. 45-56
Accepted author manuscript
File Access Level
Repository staff only
Publisher's version
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)doi:10.1016/j.dcn.2016.12.006
Web address (URL)
Publication dates
PrintFeb 2017
Online23 Dec 2016
Publication process dates
Deposited03 Jan 2017
Accepted19 Dec 2016
Accepted19 Dec 2016
FunderEconomic and Social Research Council
Economic and Social Research Council
Baily Thomas Charitable Trust
Copyright information© 2017 The authors
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