Fri 12 January 2024:
At every moment, your body’s internal organs are sending signals to your brain. You’ll be mostly unaware of them, but sometimes they cut through: for example when you’re hungry, or when you need to go to the bathroom. Our ability to tap into these hidden signals is called interoception – sometimes known as a sixth sense.
In this episode of The Conversation Weekly, we speak to a cognitive neuroscientist and expert on interoception about how new research on this connection between our minds and bodies could lead to breakthroughs in mental and physical healthcare.
Interoception is defined as the unconscious or conscious sensing of internal bodily sensations. The concept was first proposed in the early 20th century by a British neuroscientist called Charles Sherrington, but it was largely ignored by researchers until around ten years ago. One of those leading the charge is Sarah Garfinkel, a professor of cognitive neuroscience at University College London in the UK.
Editor and Co-Host, The Conversation Weekly Podcast, The Conversation
Gemma Ware is based at The Conversation in London where she is the co-producer and editor of The Conversation Weekly podcast and is head of audio for The Conversation UK. She previously worked on the international politics, society and education desks of The Conversation.
Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience, UCL
My work centres on the way emotion processing is altered in a range of clinical conditions including anxiety, autism, PTSD and psychosis. In addition, I am interested in how aberrant emotional processing can shape cognition to augment fear memory and alter attention.
The brain and the body are intrinsically and dynamically coupled, and my work investigates how signals from the body, with a particular focus on the heart, can interact with the brain to guide how we think and feel. I investigate emotion-cognition interactions in a variety of different ways, measuring both peripheral signals (using psychophysiology, such ECG) and centrally (e.g. fMRI).
I collaborate with psychiatrists and neurologists to understand the interoceptive mechanisms underlying aberrant emotion processing in clinical and neurological conditions. My research is fully translational, mapping out basic mechanisms with a view to informing evidence based novel treatments.
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