Interoceptive awareness declines with age

Psychophysiology. 2009 Nov;46(6):1130-6. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-8986.2009.00859.x. Epub 2009 Jul 6.


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.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation
  • Adult
  • Aging / psychology*
  • Awareness / physiology*
  • Electrocardiography
  • Executive Function / physiology
  • Female
  • Heart / physiology
  • Heart Rate / physiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology
  • Regression Analysis
  • Self Concept
  • Sensation / physiology
  • Sex Characteristics
  • Young Adult