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In the Body’s Eye: The computational anatomy of interoceptive inference

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  • Micah Allen
  • Andrew Levy, University College London
  • ,
  • Thomas Parr, University College London
  • ,
  • Karl J. Friston, University College London

A growing body of evidence highlights the intricate linkage of exteroceptive perception to the rhythmic activity of the visceral body. In parallel, interoceptive inference theories of affective perception and self-consciousness are on the rise in cognitive science. However, thus far no formal theory has emerged to integrate these twin domains; instead, most extant work is conceptual in nature. Here, we introduce a formal model of cardiac active inference, which explains how ascending cardiac signals entrain exteroceptive sensory perception and uncertainty. Through simulated psychophysics, we reproduce the defensive startle reflex and commonly reported effects linking the cardiac cycle to affective behaviour. We further show that simulated ‘interoceptive lesions’ blunt affective expectations, induce psychosomatic hallucinations, and exacerbate biases in perceptual uncertainty. Through synthetic heart-rate variability analyses, we illustrate how the balance of arousal-priors and visceral prediction errors produces idiosyncratic patterns of physiological reactivity. Our model thus offers a roadmap for computationally phenotyping disordered brain-body interaction.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere1010490
JournalPLOS Computational Biology
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright: © 2022 Allen et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

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