Autism spectrum disorder and interoception: Abnormalities in global integration?

Autism. 2019 Jan;23(1):212-222. doi: 10.1177/1362361317738392. Epub 2017 Nov 15.

Abstract

Research over the past three decades has seen a revived interest in the way the human body-and the way in which it is perceived-interacts with aspects of our experience. Consequently, interoception (i.e. the perception of physiological feedback from the body) has recently been shown to be associated with a wide range of cognitive, emotional, and affective functions, making it broadly relevant to the study of autism spectrum disorder. Although limited qualitative accounts and empirical studies suggest that individuals with autism spectrum disorder encounter abnormalities when perceiving and integrating physiological feedback from their bodies, other studies have suggested that people with/without autism spectrum disorder do not differ in interoceptive ability after accounting for alexithymia. In this article, we discuss the newly recognized importance of interoception in autism spectrum disorder with a focus on how deficits in the perception of bodily feedback might relate to the core features and co-occuring psychopathology of autism spectrum disorder. Finally, a new integrated theory is advanced which posits that people with autism spectrum disorder may experience a reduced capacity to integrate interoceptive information that may result in a narrow attentional bodily focus and reduced motivational and behavioral drives.

Keywords: alexithymia; autism spectrum disorder; body; interoception; sensory experiences; weak central coherence.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Autism Spectrum Disorder / psychology*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cognition
  • Humans
  • Interoception*
  • Models, Psychological
  • Perception
  • Sense of Coherence