Measuring interoception: The phase adjustment task

Biol Psychol. 2021 Oct;165:108171. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsycho.2021.108171. Epub 2021 Aug 17.


Interoception, perception of one's bodily state, has been associated with mental health and socio-emotional processes. However, several interoception tasks are of questionable validity, meaning associations between interoception and other variables require confirmation with new measures. Here we describe the novel, smartphone-based Phase Adjustment Task (PAT). Tones are presented at the participant's heart rate, but out of phase with heartbeats. Participants adjust the phase relationship between tones and heartbeats until they are synchronous. Data from 124 participants indicates variance in performance across participants which is not affected by physiological or strategic confounds. Associations between interoception and anxiety, depression and stress were not significant. Weak associations between interoception and mental health variables may be a consequence of testing a non-clinical sample. A second study revealed PAT performance to be moderately stable over one week, consistent with state effects on interoception.

Keywords: Anxiety; Cardiac perception; Cardioception; Depression; Empathy; Heartbeat counting task; Heartbeat detection task; Interoception; Mental health; PAT task; Phase adjustment task; Stress; Telemetrics.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anxiety
  • Anxiety Disorders
  • Emotions
  • Heart Rate
  • Humans
  • Interoception*