Interoceptive awareness declines with age

Authors

  • Sahib S. Khalsa,

    1. Department of Neurology and Neuroscience Program, University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa, USA
    2. Medical Scientist Training Program, University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa, USA
    3. Department of Psychiatry, UCLA Semel Institute for Neurosciences and Human Behavior, Los Angeles, California, USA
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  • David Rudrauf,

    1. Department of Neurology and Neuroscience Program, University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa, USA
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  • Daniel Tranel

    1. Department of Neurology and Neuroscience Program, University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa, USA
    2. Department of Psychology, University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa, USA
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  • This research was supported by NCCAM F31 AT003061 (S.K.), NIDA R01 DA022549 (D.T.), and NINDS P01 NS19632 (D.T.).

Address reprint requests to: Sahib S. Khalsa, M.D./Ph.D., Department of Psychiatry, UCLA Semel Institute for Neurosciences and Human Behavior, 760 Westwood Plaza, Los Angeles, California, 90095, USA. E-mail: skhalsa@mednet.ucla.edu.

Abstract

Aging has been shown to increase sensory thresholds for a variety of exteroceptive and proprioceptive stimuli. However, the influence of aging on interoceptive awareness has received relatively little empirical attention. Here we report an inverse association between aging and interoception, as indexed by the ability to sense the heartbeat at rest. In a group of 59 participants ranging in age from 22 to 63 years, age inversely predicted heartbeat detection ability, both within and across several measurement sessions. On average, age accounted for 30% of the variance in heartbeat detection accuracy. Other attribute variables including body mass index and sex were not related to heartbeat detection ability. These findings provide clear empirical evidence that interoception, much like exteroception and proprioception, declines with age.

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