Interoceptive signals impact visual processing: Cardiac modulation of visual body perception

Neuroimage. 2017 Sep;158:176-185. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2017.06.064. Epub 2017 Jun 29.


Multisensory perception research has largely focused on exteroceptive signals, but recent evidence has revealed the integration of interoceptive signals with exteroceptive information. Such research revealed that heartbeat signals affect sensory (e.g., visual) processing: however, it is unknown how they impact the perception of body images. Here we linked our participants' heartbeat to visual stimuli and investigated the spatio-temporal brain dynamics of cardio-visual stimulation on the processing of human body images. We recorded visual evoked potentials with 64-channel electroencephalography while showing a body or a scrambled-body (control) that appeared at the frequency of the on-line recorded participants' heartbeat or not (not-synchronous, control). Extending earlier studies, we found a body-independent effect, with cardiac signals enhancing visual processing during two time periods (77-130 ms and 145-246 ms). Within the second (later) time-window we detected a second effect characterised by enhanced activity in parietal, temporo-occipital, inferior frontal, and right basal ganglia-insula regions, but only when non-scrambled body images were flashed synchronously with the heartbeat (208-224 ms). In conclusion, our results highlight the role of interoceptive information for the visual processing of human body pictures within a network integrating cardio-visual signals of relevance for perceptual and cognitive aspects of visual body processing.

Keywords: Body processing; Cardio-visual stimulation; Interoception; Temporo-parietal cortex; Visual-evoked potentials.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Electroencephalography
  • Evoked Potentials, Visual / physiology
  • Female
  • Heart
  • Humans
  • Interoception / physiology*
  • Male
  • Photic Stimulation / methods
  • Signal Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Visual Perception / physiology*
  • Young Adult