Objective: To comprehend psychosomatic processes, it will be necessary to understand the brain’s influences on bodily functions and also the body’s afferent sensory input to the central nervous system, including the effects of this input on behavior and cognitive functions, especially emotion. The objective of this Presidential Address is to review what is known circa the year 2000 of the processes and mechanisms of visceral sensory psychobiology, often called interoception.
Methods: Over 1000 publications that have appeared since the 19th century were reviewed to prepare this review, including a group that are specifically cited here.
Results: Factors and data were reviewed that were identified as germane to understanding interoception. These included definitional issues, historical roots, the neural basis, studies and results in the cardiovascular-respiratory and alimentary-gastrointestinal systems, studies of emotion, and studies in people with mental disorders. Drug and hormone effects, pain, proprioception, and phantom limb or organ factors, and the role of awareness were briefly described. Methodological issues, methods of study including functional imaging, and possible future directions for study were identified.
Conclusions: Understanding the physical basis of psychosomatic processes, including the so-called mind-body problem, will require a detailed understanding the psychobiology of interoception.