Interoception, Body Perception and Awareness

The Heritage of György Ádám

Abstract

Two series of studies are reported dealing with (1) psychophysical characteristics and (2) interactions of visceroceptive and somatosensoric information processing. The first studies characterized detection, graduation and localisation of visceral as compared to somatic stimuli. The second series investigated somatovisceral discrimination, masking, and summation at different levels of awareness.

Methods: Distension of the sigmoid colon served as standard model. The visceral stimulus was applied by a balloon probe in the sigmoid colon, the external abdominal stimulus by a ring-shaped stimulator at two abdominal sites. A forced-choice-paradigm with two observation intervals was applied (multiple staircase) to estimate interactions between somatosensation and visceroception.

Results: The visceral distension stimulus can be detected or discriminated correctly without conscious sensation. Visceral localization of stimuli requires conscious sensation. Combining visceral and somatic stimuli resulted in distinct elevation of visceral thresholds demonstrating somatosensory masking of the visceral stimulus. There are characteristic somato-visceral and viscero-somatic differences in masking and qualitative differences between implicit and explicit processing stages. Specific electrocortical reactions to visceral stimuli could be shown.

Discussion: Visceroception is represented on the highest functional level as a fairly independent submodality of body perception. There are several hints that visceroception and protopathic somatic sensitivity follow the same major paths and comprise the same ontogenetic origin. Perceptual interactions are determined by modality and awareness and depend on the task. The role of implicit and explicit body perception considering the body self and its significance in the context of consiousness are discussed.

References

  1. 1.

    Hölzl, R., Erasmus, L.-P., Möltner, A. (1996) Detection, discrimination and sensation of visceral stimuli. Biol. Psychol. 42, 199–214.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. 2.

    Hölzl, R., Neidig, C. W., Erasmus, L.-P., Möltner, A. (1998) Somatovisceral interactions in visceral perception: Abdominal masking of colonic stimuli. Integr. Physiol. Behav. Sci. 33, 264–279.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. 3.

    Erasmus, L.-P., Neidig, C., Möltner, A., Hölzl, R. (1996). Beeinflussung der viszeralen Sensibilität durch somatosensorische Signale. Teil II: Summation. Forschungsberichte aus dem Otto-Selz-Institut für Psychologie und Erziehungswissenschaft der Universität Mannheim: Nr. 28.

    Google Scholar 

  4. 4.

    Hölzl, R., Möltner, A., Neidig, C., Kleinböhl, D. (1996) Merkmale und Kriterien interozeptiver Wahrnehmung. In: Mandel, K. (ed.). Bericht über den 40. Kongress der Deutschen Gesellschaft für Psychologie. Hogrefe, Göttingen.

    Google Scholar 

  5. 5.

    Hölzl, R., Möltner, A., Neidig, C. W. (1998) Body perception and consciousness: contributions of interoception research. Acta Biol. Hung. 49, 77–86.

    Google Scholar 

  6. 6a.

    Ádám, G. (1967). Interoception and behaviour. An experimental study. Akadémiai Kiadó, Budapest.

    Google Scholar 

  7. 6.

    Ádám, G. (1998). Visceral perception: Understanding internal cognition. Plenum, New York, London, Washington, Moscow.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  8. 7.

    Damasio, A. R. (1994). Descartes’ Error. Emotion, reason and the human brain. Grosset/Putnam, New York.

    Google Scholar 

  9. 8.

    Damasio, A. R. (2000). The feeling of what happens. Body and emotion in the feeling of consciousness. Heinemann, London.

    Google Scholar 

  10. 9.

    Kihlstrom, J. F. (1997) Consciousness and me-ness. In: Cohen J. D., Schooler, J. W. (eds). Scientific approaches to consciousness. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Hillsdale, pp. 451–468.

    Google Scholar 

  11. 10.

    Sacks, O. (1984). A leg to stand on. Duckworth, London.

    Google Scholar 

  12. 11.

    Sacks, O. (1985). The man who mistook his wife for a hat. Duckworth, London.

    Google Scholar 

  13. 12.

    Sacks, O. (1995). An anthropologist on Mars. Seven paradoxical tales. Knopf, New York.

    Google Scholar 

  14. 13.

    Erasmus, L. P., Püll, O., Kratzmair, M., Hölzl, R. (1994) Method and apparatus for pressure-controlled distension of the lower gastrointestinal tract. Med. Engin. Phys. London 16(4), 338–347.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  15. 14.

    James, W. (1890). Principles of Psychology. Macmillan and Co. Ltd., London.

    Google Scholar 

  16. 15.

    Skinner, B. F. (1938). Science and human behavior. Free Press, New York.

    Google Scholar 

  17. 16.

    Luria, A. R. (1972). The man with a shattered world. Basic Books, New York. [Orig Moskau 1968].

    Google Scholar 

  18. 17.

    Head, H. (1893) On disturbances of sensation with especial reference to the pain of visceral disease. Brain 16, 1–133.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. 18.

    Mackenzie, J. (1893) Some points bearing on the association of sensory disorders and visceral disease. Brain 16, 321–353.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. 19.

    Cervero, F. (1994) Sensory innervation of the viscera: peripheral basis of visceral pain. Physiol. Rev. 74, 5–138.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  21. 20.

    Möltner, A., Kleinböhl, D., Schellberg, D., Hölzl, R. (1997). Kolonisch und abdominal evozierte kortikale Reaktionen in Abhängigkeit von physikalsichen Reizparametern und der subjektiven Empfindungsstärke. Forschungsbericht aus dem Otto-Selz-Institut. Mannheim, Universität Mannheim: Nr. 45.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to R. Hölzl.

Additional information

Dedicated to Professor György Ádám on the occasion of his 80th birthday.

Parts of this essay are based on a paper read before the research colloquium of the Institute of Psychology, University of Zurich, Switzerland, January 1999 (printed in Marx 1999).

Rights and permissions

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made.

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Möltner, A., Hölzl, R. Interoception, Body Perception and Awareness. BIOLOGIA FUTURA 53, 515–536 (2002). https://doi.org/10.1556/ABiol.53.2002.4.12

Download citation

Keywords

  • Visceroception
  • somatosensation
  • somatovisceral masking
  • somatovisceral summation
  • multiple-staircase method