Seminar Series

Interoceptive inference, emotion, and the embodied self

‘Interoception’ is the sense of the internal physiological state of the body – the sense of the body ‘from within’. There is increasing interest in exploring how interoceptive and exteroceptive processes interact in specifying conscious states, especially those having to do with conscious selfhood and the experience of owning and identifying with a particular body. Another area of accelerating interest is ‘predictive coding’ which sees perception as a process of inference on the causes of sensory signals, according to Bayesian principles. In this talk I will put these ideas together in theory and in experiments. I will introduce a conceptual model of “interoceptive inference” which applies the framework of predictive coding to interoception. According to this model, subjective feeling states (emotions) arise from actively inferred generative (predictive) models of the causes of interoceptive afferents. The model also predicts that embodied selfhood is grounded in active inference of those signals “most likely to be me” across interoceptive and exteroceptive domains. I will then present some recent experimental evidence illustrating this view, based on examining the role of interoceptive feedback in psychophysical paradigms. This will include a novel version of the ‘rubber hand illusion’ incorporating visual feedback of heartbeat signals via augmented reality. The results show that multisensory integration across interoceptive and exteroceptive domains exerts a direct influence on the experience of body ownership. References: Seth, A.K, Suzuki, K., and Critchley, H.D. (2012). An interoceptive predictive coding model of conscious presence. Frontiers in Psychology: Consciousness Research. 2:e395 Bio: Anil Seth is Professor of Cognitive and Computational Neuroscience at the University of Sussex, an EPSRC Leadership Fellow, and Founding Co-Director of the Sackler Centre for Consciousness Science (www.sussex.ac.uk/sackler). Research in his group integrates consciousness science with computational and cognitive neuroscience. He is Editor-in-Chief of Frontiers in Consciousness Research and was overall conference chair for the 16th Meeting of the Association for the Scientific Study of Consciousness (ASSC16; www.theassc.org/conferences_assc16).