It has been suggested that our perception of the internal milieu, or the body's internal state, is shaped by our beliefs and previous knowledge about the body's expected state, rather than being solely based on actual interoceptive experiences. This study investigated whether heartbeat perception could be illusorily distorted towards prior subjective beliefs, such that threat expectations suffice to induce a misperception of heartbeat frequency. Participants were instructed to focus on their cardiac activity and report their heartbeat, either tapping along to it (Experiment 1) or silently counting (Experiment 2) while ECG was recorded. While completing this task, different cues provided valid predictive information about the intensity of an upcoming cutaneous stimulation (high- vs. low- pain). Results showed that participants expected a heart rate increase over the anticipation of high- vs. low-pain stimuli and that this belief was perceptually instantiated, as suggested by their interoceptive reports. Importantly, the perceived increase was not mirrored by the real heart rate. Perceptual modulations were absent when participants executed the same task but with an exteroceptive stimulus (Experiment 3). The findings reveal, for the first time, an interoceptive illusion of increased heartbeats elicited by threat expectancy and shed new light on interoceptive processes through the lenses of Bayesian predictive processes, providing tantalizing insights into how such illusory phenomena may intersect with the recognition and regulation of people's internal states.

Heart is deceitful above all things: Threat expectancy induces the illusory perception of increased heartrate

Perrucci M. G.;Costantini M.;Ferri F.
2024-01-01

Abstract

It has been suggested that our perception of the internal milieu, or the body's internal state, is shaped by our beliefs and previous knowledge about the body's expected state, rather than being solely based on actual interoceptive experiences. This study investigated whether heartbeat perception could be illusorily distorted towards prior subjective beliefs, such that threat expectations suffice to induce a misperception of heartbeat frequency. Participants were instructed to focus on their cardiac activity and report their heartbeat, either tapping along to it (Experiment 1) or silently counting (Experiment 2) while ECG was recorded. While completing this task, different cues provided valid predictive information about the intensity of an upcoming cutaneous stimulation (high- vs. low- pain). Results showed that participants expected a heart rate increase over the anticipation of high- vs. low-pain stimuli and that this belief was perceptually instantiated, as suggested by their interoceptive reports. Importantly, the perceived increase was not mirrored by the real heart rate. Perceptual modulations were absent when participants executed the same task but with an exteroceptive stimulus (Experiment 3). The findings reveal, for the first time, an interoceptive illusion of increased heartbeats elicited by threat expectancy and shed new light on interoceptive processes through the lenses of Bayesian predictive processes, providing tantalizing insights into how such illusory phenomena may intersect with the recognition and regulation of people's internal states.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/11564/824928
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