Interoception Self-Test!

        Continuing a bit further with my presentation from earlier this week centered around a potential biological factor of eating disorders and body image issues I thought I would continue this discussion. After reading Carrie Arnold’s essay Inside the Wrong Body I have been very curious about the concept of interoception.  Essentially, interoception is self-awarness. One’s interoceptive skills dictate how in tune a person might be with their emotions, pain, body temperature, hunger, thirst and other internal aspects of self. Arnold’s essay and related research takes this concept one step farther and proposes that maybe this sense, interoception, is also responsible for body image and as a result the diagnosis of eating disorders in individuals.   Interoception is said to be managed in the insula, a part of the brain which is tucked inside t fold of the brains tissue back near the ears.

        I have been wondering a lot about the plasticity of ones interoception and whether or not this sense can be trained effectively. Arnold’s essay proposed that seeing as interoception, and activity in the insula might be correlated with the appearance of eating disorders and distorted body image, mindfulness exercises including meditation and yoga might be a beneficial treatment option. Studies have shown that these exercises have helped to decrease negative body image . I am wondering just how much this sense can change. I’m also wondering if certain brains are more likely to respond to interoception exercises than others? Often people saying that they are having an “ugly day” or just don’t feel like they look good that day or even that they don’t feel like themselves on a certain day…is this possibly the interoception center taking a brief break??

This also got me wondering about my own interoceptive skills. Luckily, Arnold included a handy interoception self test in the body of her essay. I will outline the self test below so that you too can become more aware of your self-awareness!

  1. Sit in a chair in a quiet location with your hands at your sides and both feet on the ground. Set a timer to 1 minute and with your eyes opened or closed (whichever you prefer) attempt to count the number of times your heart beats in that minute. DO NOT hold the pulse on your wrist or neck. Record the number of heartbeats.
  2. Next take your pulse for a minute the usual way by placing your left/right pointer and middle fingers on the underside of the opposite wrist. You can also take your pulse by placing your right/left just under the back of your jaw where the jaw meets the neck (on the same side–right or left). Record.
  3. Wait 2 minutes.
  4. Take your pulse the usual way again, and average the two results attained when taking your pulse the      usual way.
  5. Complete the following calculation:

1-((Average heart rate-estimated heart rate)/average heart rate) = _______

How to interpret your results:

A result of .80 or higher indicates that your interoceptive ability is very good.

A result of .60-.79 reflects a moderately good sense of self.

A result of below .59 indicates poor interoception.

As with anything, these result should be taken lightly as this is a very informal test of interoceptive skills and may not reflect your sense of self in actuality!  I’m not entirely sure how accurate this test was at informing me of my own interoceptive skills, but it was still interesting!

Arnold, C. (2012). Inside the Wrong Body. Scientific American Mind. 23, 36 – 41.

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6 thoughts on “Interoception Self-Test!

  1. This was such an interesting task. In physical activities such as dance or athletic training, bodily awareness is one of the most important factors in determining success. Releasing tension from the right areas while isolating and maintaining organization in others takes a lot of time, focus and energy, but noticing something as constant and subtle as a heartbeat is something I hadn’t really considered. Especially in the high pressure/fast-paced college culture, I wouldn’t be surprised if people never notice such things. Time and energy are precious commodities around here, and it seems counter-intuitive, but maybe noticing your heartbeat for a few moments every day can help you with your stress, your body image, your well being?

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  2. I score .53 on this test. I’m high functioning autistic and often don’t know when I’m hungry. I also used to have trouble with bladder control because I wouldn’t feel it until it was really urgent.

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  3. It’s interesting to read about new findings concerning the insula. In most of my classes, the insula is often overlooked because it is tucked deep within the brain. Not much research has been done with it because it is difficult to probe it with electrodes. With the invention of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), researchers can see how the insula responds to certain stimuli. People with damage to the insula have been able to quit smoking cold turkey. Perhaps some of the exercises could help to mold the insula to kick certain addictions as well as prevent them.

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    1. Maybe allistic people can. Most autistic people have disordered interoception awareness as well as sensory processing disorders relating to the external senses (as well as proprioception problems, which is why 80% of us are dyspraxic) & vestibular issues.

      A high percentage of anorexic women test as being on the autism spectrum.

      I myself am a former anorexic who was later diagnosed autistic.

      It’s not hard for people with fixative natures & problems feeling hunger to find that a casual attempt to diet can become a really destructive special interest.

      Arnold’s problems with interoception are far more likely to be symptoms of undiagnosed autism than an anorexic feature. When I was in inpatient, my co-patients experienced hunger 3 times daily whereas i never did.

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    2. Maybe allistic people can. Most autistic people have disordered interoception awareness as well as sensory processing disorders relating to the external senses (as well as proprioception problems, which is why 80% of us are dyspraxic) & have vestibular issues.

      A high percentage of anorexic women test as being on the autism spectrum.

      I myself am a former anorexic who was later diagnosed autistic.

      It’s not hard for people with fixative natures & problems feeling hunger to find that a casual attempt to diet can become a really destructive special interest.

      Arnold’s problems with interoception are far more likely to be symptoms of undiagnosed autism than an anorexic feature. When I was in inpatient, my co-patients experienced hunger 3 times daily whereas i never did.

      Like

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