Sensing internal bodily signals, or interoception, is fundamental to maintain life. However, interoception should not be viewed as an isolated domain, as it interacts with exteroception, cognition and action to ensure the integrity of the organism. Focusing on cardiac, respiratory and gastric rhythms, we review evidence that interoception is anatomically and functionally intertwined with the processing of signals from the external environment. Interactions arise at all stages, from the peripheral transduction of interoceptive signals to sensory processing and cortical integration, in a network that extends beyond core interoceptive regions. Interoceptive rhythms contribute to functions ranging from perceptual detection up to sense of self, or conversely compete with external inputs. Renewed interest in interoception revives long-standing issues on how the brain integrates and coordinates information in distributed regions, by means of oscillatory synchrony, predictive coding or multisensory integration. Considering interoception and exteroception in the same framework paves the way for biological modes of information processing specific to living organisms.
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The authors thank N. Gerard for help with Fig. 1. This work was supported by the European Research Council under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program (grant agreement no. 670325, advanced grant BRAVIUS) and senior fellowship of the Canadian Institute For Advance Research (CIFAR) program in Brain, Mind and Consciousness to C.T.-B. This research was also funded by Agence Nationale pour la Recherche (ANR-17-EURE-0017, ANR-10- IDEX-0001-02). T.E. is supported by ANR-21-CE37-0031 and M.S. by a fellowship from the Geneva University Hospitals.
The authors declare no competing interests.
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Engelen, T., Solcà, M. & Tallon-Baudry, C. Interoceptive rhythms in the brain. Nat Neurosci 26, 1670–1684 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41593-023-01425-1