Thursday, 27 September 2018

The Interoceptive Mind

Helena De Preester is assistant professor and researcher at University College Ghent, as well as a visiting research professor at the Department of Philosophy and Moral Sciences at the University of Ghent. Her research focuses on the connection between the human mind, embodiment, technology, and wider society. 

Manos Tsakiris is professor of Psychology at Royal Holloway, University of London, where he leads the lab of Action & Body and the INtheSELF ERC-funded project. His research focuses on the link between body and self and how we become aware of ourselves and others. In this blog post they introduce their new co-edited, interdisciplinary volume on interoception.

Interoception is the body-to-brain axis of signals originating from the internal body and visceral organs (such as gastrointestinal, respiratory, hormonal and circulatory systems), and plays a unique role in ensuring homeostasis. Interoception therefore refers to the sensing of the state of the inner body and its homeostatic needs, that is, to the ever-fluctuating state of the body beneath its sensory (exteroceptive) and musculoskeletal sheath.

By bringing together the perspectives of experimental psychology and cognitive neuroscience, psychophysiology, psychiatry, clinical psychology, and philosophy, this volume aims to go beyond the known role of interoception for homeostasis in order to ask, and hopefully provide, important insights on the role that interoception plays for our mental life and lived experience, for awareness, affect and cognition.

The perspectives in the 17 chapters largely fall within the embodied cognition approach that attempted to ground cognition and the self in the body. Over the last three decades, modern psychology and cognitive neurosciences have focused on the importance of the body as the starting point for a science of the self and the subject. Notwithstanding the influential research that accumulated in this area, it is clear that our fields have neglected another important dimension of the body, namely the interoceptive body, which is the body as perceived from the inside.

There is consensus that interoception research must develop psychologically-relevant and philosophically-sound theoretical foundations, a wider and more grounded measurement model and a fuller characterization of the links between different interoceptive dimensions and systems, if it is to achieve its appropriate place within the life and mind sciences.

The contributions collected in this multidisciplinary volume represent an attempt to provide a reference for the conceptualization of this excitingly deep connection between our body and mind. As such it offers an overview of the state-of-art in psychologcial and neuroscience research, of recent developments in clinical-psychological models for normal and pathological functioning, and of new theories that frame interoception at the intersection between philosophy of mind and the broader context of embodied cognition. To that end, its scope ranges from the psychology and neuroscience of interoception (Part I), to clinical implications of recent research taking into account interoception (Part II), and to theoretical-philosophical frameworks and models of interoception (Part III).

The different chapters included across the three parts are inter-related in various ways, and the synergy between the chapters crosses the boundaries of the disciplines, opening up opportunities for fruitful dialogue between fields that otherwise remain too often separate. The chapters thus share a common concern for what it means to experience oneself, for the crucial role of emotions, and for issues of health and wellbeing, discussed on the joint basis of our bodily existence and interoception, resulting in a more than usual attention for the phenomenology of subjective experience in disciplines outside philosophy.

We hope that the scholarly research presented in this volume will further motivate the much-anticipated coming of age of interoceptive research in psychology, cognitive neurosciences and philosophy.

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