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Is alexithymia characterised by impaired interoception? Further evidence, the importance of control variables, and the problems with the Heartbeat Counting Task

Is alexithymia characterised by impaired interoception? Further evidence, the importance of control variables, and the problems with the Heartbeat Counting Task

Murphy, Jennifer, Brewer, Rebecca, Hobson, Hannah, Catmur, Caroline and Bird, Geoffrey (2018) Is alexithymia characterised by impaired interoception? Further evidence, the importance of control variables, and the problems with the Heartbeat Counting Task. Biological Psychology, 136. pp. 189-197. ISSN 0301-0511 (doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biopsycho.2018.05.010)

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Abstract

Interoception, the perception of one’s internal state, is commonly quantified using the heartbeat counting task (HCT) – which is thought to be a measure of cardiac interoceptive sensitivity (accuracy). Interoceptive sensitivity has been associated with a number of clinical traits and aspects of higher order cognition, including emotion processing and decision-making. It has been proposed that alexithymia (difficulties identifying and describing one’s own emotions) is associated with impaired interoceptive sensitivity, but new research questions this association. Problematically, much evidence attesting to the absence of this association has been conducted using the HCT, a measure affected by various physiological and psychological factors. Here, we present novel data (N=287) examining the relationship between alexithymia and HCT performance, controlling for a number of potential confounds. Inclusion of these control measures reveals the predicted negative relationship between alexithymia and HCT performance. Results are discussed with regard to difficulties quantifying interoceptive sensitivity using the HCT.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: © 2018 The Authors. Published by Elsevier B.V. This is an open access article under the CC BY license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/BY/4.0/).
Uncontrolled Keywords: alexithymia; heartbeat counting; interoception; interoceptive accuracy; interoceptive sensitivity
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Faculty / Department / Research Group: Faculty of Education & Health
Faculty of Education & Health > Department of Psychology, Social Work & Counselling
Last Modified: 11 Jul 2018 12:05
Selected for GREAT 2016: None
Selected for GREAT 2017: None
Selected for GREAT 2018: None
Selected for GREAT 2019: None
URI: http://gala.gre.ac.uk/id/eprint/20338

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