Interoception and gender: What aspects should we pay attention to?

Conscious Cogn. 2017 Feb;48:129-137. doi: 10.1016/j.concog.2016.11.002. Epub 2016 Nov 17.

Abstract

Interoception is involved in both somatic and mental disorders with different prevalence between genders; however, gender differences are often neglected. To examine the potential gender differences in interoceptive awareness, we recruited 376 healthy subjects (51% males, aged 17-30years), to fill in the Multidimensional Assessment of Interoceptive Awareness (MAIA). Of that sample, in a subgroup of 40 subjects (50% males), interoceptive accuracy was assessed by heartbeat counting task (HCT). The results on interroceptive awareness suggest that females tendto notice bodily sensations more often, better understand relations between bodily sensations and emotional states, worry or experience more emotional distress with sensations of pain or discomfort and see body as less safe. The results of interoceptive accuracy further suggest that females are less efficient in consciously detecting heartbeats. Therefore, gender should be considered when interoceptive evaluation is performed in disorders associated to bodily sensations and to the emotional/mood states.

Keywords: Behavioural evaluation; Bodily senses; Gender difference; Heartbeat counting task; Interoception; Multidimensional Assessment of Interoceptive Awareness; Self-report questionnaire.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Awareness / physiology*
  • Emotions / physiology*
  • Female
  • Heart Rate / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Interoception / physiology*
  • Male
  • Sex Characteristics*
  • Young Adult