Santa Lucia - Neurosciences and Rehabilitation Sapienza University of Rome

Psychol Res. 2021 May 28. doi: 10.1007/s00426-021-01477-7

The inside of me: interoceptive constraints on the concept of self in neuroscience and clinical psychology

Humans are unique in their ability to think about themselves and carry a more or less clear notion of who they are in their mind. Here we review recent evidence suggesting that the birth, maintenance, and loss of the abstract concept of 'self' is deeply tied to interoception, the sense of internal physiological signals. Interoception influences multiple facets of the self-concept, cutting across its material, social, moral, and agentive components. Overall, we argue that interoception contributes to the stability of the self-concept over time, unifying its layers and constraining the degree to which it is susceptible to external influences. Hence, the core features of the self-concept are those that correlate more with inner bodily states. We discuss the implications that this may have for theories of embodied cognition as well as for the understanding of psychiatric disorders in which the concept of self appears fragmented or loose. Finally, we formulate some empirical predictions that could be tested in future studies to shed further light on this emerging field.

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