Perception of Gastric Contractions and Self-Control of Gastric Motility

Authors

  • William E. Whitehead,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Psychiatry, The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, and Gerontology Research Center (Baltimore), National Institute on Aging, National Institute of Health, Education and Welfare, Bethesda, and Baltimore City Hospitals, Baltimore
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Vincent M. Drescher

    1. John F. Kennedy Institute, and Gerontology Research Center (Baltimore), National Institute on Aging, National Institute of Health, Education and Welfare, Bethesda, and Baltimore City Hospitals, Baltimore
    Search for more papers by this author

  • This investigation was supported in part by Research Scientist Development Award, 7 KO1 MH00133, from The National Institute of Mental Health.

  • Bernard T. Engel, Ph.D., read the manuscript and made many helpful suggestions which we have adopted regarding the interpretation of the data. These data were collected at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine and analyzed at the Gerontology Research Center (Baltimore) of The National Institute on Aging.

Address requests for reprints to: William E. Whitehead, Ph.D., Department of Behavioral Psychology, John F. Kennedy Institute, 707 North Broadway, Baltimore, MD 21205.

ABSTRACT

The hypothesis was that self-control of a visceral response is dependent on ability to perceive occurrence of the response. Subjects were asked to judge whether or not a signal light coincided with a stomach contraction on each of approximately 200 trials. In a different session heart beat perception was tested by asking subjects to judge whether or not signal light flashes coincided with heart beats. Subjects then were tested for ability to increase and to decrease gastric motility prior to biofeedback training, after which half received 4 hrs of visual feedback while the others practiced without feedback. Control of motility without feedback was subsequently retested. Initially, subjects were unable to control gastric motility, but with feedback they could increase motility on command. Ability to perceive gastric contractions was unrelated to control of gastric motility before, during, or following biofeedback training, indicating that self-control of a visceral response is not dependent on perceptual sensitivity. Perception of stomach contractions correlated significantly (r= .51) with perception of heart beats, suggesting that there may be a generalized tendency to be aware of or to attend to visceral events.

Ancillary