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Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, Volume 48, Issue 9, pp 2953–2967 | Cite as

The Feeling of Me Feeling for You: Interoception, Alexithymia and Empathy in Autism

  • Cari-lène Mul
  • Steven D. Stagg
  • Bruno Herbelin
  • Jane E. Aspell
Original Paper

Abstract

Following recent evidence for a link between interoception, emotion and empathy, we investigated relationships between these factors in autism spectrum disorder (ASD). 26 adults with ASD and 26 healthy participants completed tasks measuring interoception, alexithymia and empathy. ASD participants with alexithymia demonstrated lower cognitive and affective empathy than ASD participants without alexithymia. ASD participants showed reduced interoceptive sensitivity (IS), and also reduced interoceptive awareness (IA). IA was correlated with empathy and alexithymia, but IS was related to neither. Alexithymia fulfilled a mediating role between IA and empathy. Our findings are suggestive of an alexithymic subgroup in ASD, with distinct interoceptive processing abilities, and have implications for diagnosis and interventions.

Keywords

Autism Interoception Empathy Alexithymia 

Notes

Acknowledgments

This study was funded by Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge, UK, as part of the doctoral study of Cari-lène Mul.

Author Contributions

CM and JA designed the experiment. SS conducted the diagnostic interviews. BH created experimental software. CM recruited participants, collected the data, and analysed the data. All authors discussed the results and contributed to the final manuscript.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Psychology, Faculty of Science and TechnologyAnglia Ruskin UniversityCambridgeUK
  2. 2.EPFL Center of NeuroprostheticsGenevaSwitzerland

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