Interoception: Definition, History, and Characteristics

Interoception is an essential sensory system that allows us to sense and interpret the physiological changes inside our bodies. The term “interoception” was first coined by physiologist Charles Sherrington in 1906 (Craig, 2002). Interoception is the ability to perceive and respond to information from our internal organs and tissues, such as our heart rate, respiration, digestion, and temperature (Barrett, 2019). It is a form of internal perception that we experience every day without being aware of it. Interoception is important for our survival, as it helps us to detect changes in our body that may indicate potential danger and to regulate our behavior accordingly (Pollatos, 2019).

Interoception plays a key role in the regulation of emotion and behavior. It is responsible for the ability to recognize and accurately interpret physical sensations and internal organ activity. This is important for the regulation of physiological and psychological processes such as stress, attention, motivation, eating behavior, and decision-making (Barrett, 2019). The ability to accurately interpret our own body signals also has implications for our social behavior, as it can help us to better understand the nonverbal cues of others (Pollatos, 2019).

The development of interoception is a complex process that begins in infancy and continues to mature during the lifespan. It is influenced by both genetic and environmental factors, and is closely related to other sensory systems such as proprioception and exteroception (Barrett, 2019). However, research has shown that interoception can be impaired in certain conditions, such as anxiety and depression, as well as in individuals with autism spectrum disorder (Barber et al., 2020).

In conclusion, interoception is an essential sensory system that helps us to sense and interpret changes inside our body. It plays a key role in the regulation of emotion, behavior, and social interactions. As such, it is important to further investigate how interoception can be affected by different environmental and genetic factors.


Barber, D. M., Jones, A. P., & Baron-Cohen, S. (2020). Interoception in Autism Spectrum Disorders. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 24(7), 595-607.

Barrett, L. F. (2019). Interoception, emotion, and the development of self. Annual Review of Clinical Psychology, 15, 1-26.

Craig, A. D. (2002). How do you feel? An interoceptive moment with your neurobiological self. The Journal of Comparative Neurology, 463(4), 515-525.

Pollatos, O. (2019). Interoception and emotion: A review of recent findings. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 102, 159-177.

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