Autism and the Sensory System
Part Eight: The Role of Interoception: The Eighth Sensory System
With Kelly Mahler, MS, OTR/L
Interoception is the sense that allows us to feel sensations from the inside of our body like a growling stomach, or full bladder or tight muscles (Craig, 2002). These internal sensations can serve as important clues to our emotions (Craig, 2002; Critchley et al., 2004; Herbert, Herbert, & Pollatos, 2011; Herbert, Pollatos, & Schandry, 2007; Pollatos, Gramann, & Schandry, 2007; Pollatos et al., 2005). For example, noticing a growling stomach is a clue that we are hungry, or noticing a full bladder is a clue that we have to go to the bathroom, or noticing tight muscles is a clue that we are frustrated. This body-emotion connection provides valuable information about the world around us and within us, information about the way our body is responding to the situation at hand. For example, noticing tight muscles and recognizing it as a clue of frustration provides us with valuable information about our current situation, our body serving as an alert that something might be off around us. This body-emotion connection urges us into action, to seek out a solution that will help us regain a comfortable feeling body and emotion (e.g. seek help; request that an unmet need is fulfilled; take a quite break) (Jackson, Parkinson, Kim, Schüermann, & Eickhoff, 2011).