Interoceptive sensitivity in anxiety and anxiety disorders: an overview and integration of neurobiological findings

Clin Psychol Rev. 2010 Feb;30(1):1-11. doi: 10.1016/j.cpr.2009.08.008.


Interoceptive sensitivity, particularly regarding heartbeat, has been suggested to play a pivotal role in the pathogenesis of anxiety and anxiety disorders. This review provides an overview of methods which are frequently used to assess heartbeat perception in clinical studies and summarizes presently available results referring to interoceptive sensitivity with respect to heartbeat in anxiety-related traits (anxiety sensitivity, state/trait anxiety), panic disorder and other anxiety disorders. In addition, recent neurobiological studies of neuronal activation correlates of heartbeat perception using positron emission tomography (PET), functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) or electroencephalographic (EEG) techniques are presented. Finally, possible clinical and therapeutic implications (e.g., beta-blockers, biofeedback therapy, cognitive interventions and interoceptive exposure) of the effects of heartbeat perception on anxiety and the anxiety disorders and the potential use of interoceptive sensitivity as an intermediate phenotype of anxiety disorders in future neurobiological and genetic studies are discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anxiety / physiopathology
  • Anxiety / psychology*
  • Anxiety Disorders / physiopathology
  • Anxiety Disorders / psychology*
  • Attention / physiology
  • Awareness / physiology
  • Brain / physiopathology*
  • Emotions
  • Heart Rate / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Perception / physiology*