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Front Hum Neurosci. 2018 Mar 6;12:74. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2018.00074. eCollection 2018.

Feel the Time. Time Perception as a Function of Interoceptive Processing.

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Department of Psychology, Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Milan, Italy.
Applied Technology for Neuro-Psychology Lab, IRCCS Istituto Auxologico Italiano, Milan, Italy.
Institute of Cognitive Sciences and Technologies, National Research Council, Rome, Italy.


The nature of time is rooted in our body. Constellations of impulses arising from the flesh constantly create our interoceptive perception and, in turn, the unfolding of these perceptions defines human awareness of time. This study explored the connection between time perception and interoception and proposes the Interoceptive Buffer saturation (IBs) index. IBs evaluates subjects' ability to process salient stimuli from the body by measuring subjective distortions of interoceptive time perception, i.e., the estimated duration of tactile interoceptive stimulations. Thirty female healthy subjects were recruited through consecutive sampling and assessed for common variables related to interoceptive alterations: depressive symptoms (Beck Depression Inventory, BDI-II), eating disorders (EDI-3) risk, and anxiety levels (State Trait Anxiety Inventory, STAI). Interoceptive cardiac accuracy (IAc) was assessed as well. Subjects performed verbal time estimation of interoceptive stimuli (IBs) delivered using a specifically designed interoceptive tactile stimulator, as well as verbal time estimation of visual and auditory stimuli. Results showed that IBs index positively correlated with IAc, and negatively with EDI-3 Drive for Thinness (DT) risk subscale. Moreover, IBs index was positively predicted by IAc, and negatively predicted by DT and somatic factors of depression. Our results suggest that underestimations in interoceptive time perception are connected to different psychological conditions characterized by a diminished processing of high salience stimuli from the body. Conversely, overestimations of the duration of interoceptive stimuli appear to be function of subjects' ability to correctly perceive their own bodily information. Evidence supported IBs index, fostering the concept of interoceptive treatments for clinical purposes.


C-T fibers; interoception; interoceptive buffer; time perception

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