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J Exp Psychol Gen. 2018 Mar;147(3):398-408. doi: 10.1037/xge0000366. Epub 2017 Nov 20.

Alexithymia is associated with a multidomain, multidimensional failure of interoception: Evidence from novel tests.

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MRC Social, Genetic, and Developmental Psychiatry Centre, King's College London.
Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, King's College London.


Interoception, the perception of the body's internal state, contributes to numerous aspects of higher-order cognition. Several theories suggest a causal role for atypical interoception in specific psychiatric disorders, including a recent claim that atypical interoception represents a transdiagnostic impairment across disorders characterized by reduced perception of one's own emotion (alexithymia). Such theories are supported predominantly by evidence from only one interoceptive domain (cardiac); however, evidence of domain-specific interoceptive ability highlights the need to assess interoception in noncardiac domains. Using novel interoceptive tasks, we demonstrate that individuals high in alexithymic traits show a reduced propensity to utilize interoceptive cues to gauge respiratory output (Experiment 1), reduced accuracy on tasks of muscular effort (Experiment 2), and taste sensitivity (Experiment 3), unrelated to any co-occurring autism, depression, or anxiety. Results suggest that alexithymia reflects a multidomain, multidimensional failure of interoception, which is consistent with theories suggesting that atypical interoception may underpin both symptom commonalities between psychiatric disorders and heterogeneity within disorders. (PsycINFO Database Record.

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