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Front. Hum. Neurosci. | doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2018.00074

Feel the time. Time perception as a function of interoceptive processing

  • 1Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Italy
  • 2Consiglio Nazionale Delle Ricerche (CNR), Italy
  • 3Istituto Auxologico Italiano (IRCCS), Italy

The nature of time is rooted in our body. Constellations of impulses arising from the flesh constantly create our interoceptive perception and, in turn, the unfolding of these perceptions defines human awareness of time. This study explored the connection between time perception and interoception and proposes the Interoceptive Buffer saturation (IBs) index. IBs evaluates subjects’ ability to process salient stimuli from the body by measuring subjective distortions of interoceptive time perception, i.e., the estimated duration of tactile interoceptive stimulations.
30 female healthy subjects were recruited through consecutive sampling and assessed for common variables related to interoceptive alterations: depressive symptoms (BDI-II), eating disorders (EDI-3) risk, and anxiety levels (STAI). Interoceptive cardiac accuracy (IAc) was assessed as well. Subjects performed verbal time estimation of interoceptive stimuli (IBs) delivered using a specifically designed interoceptive tactile stimulator, as well as verbal time estimation of visual and auditory stimuli.
Results showed that IBs index positively correlated with IAc, and negatively with EDI-3 Drive for Thinness (DT) risk subscale. Moreover, IBs index was positively predicted by IAc, and negatively predicted by DT and somatic factors of depression. Our results suggest that underestimations in interoceptive time perception are connected to different psychological conditions characterized by a diminished processing of high salience stimuli from the body. Conversely, overestimations of the duration of interoceptive stimuli appear to be function of subjects’ ability to correctly perceive their own bodily information. Evidence supported IBs index, fostering the concept of interoceptive treatments for clinical purposes.

Keywords: interoception, interoceptive buffer, CT fibers, Time Perception, body perception disturbance

Received: 28 Oct 2017; Accepted: 12 Feb 2018.

Edited by:

Irina Strigo, University of California, San Francisco, United States

Reviewed by:

J Michael Herrmann, University of Edinburgh, United Kingdom
Marc Wittmann, Institut für Grenzgebiete der Psychologie und Psychohygiene, Germany  

Copyright: © 2018 Di Lernia, Serino, Pezzulo, Pedroli, Cipresso and Riva. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Dr. Daniele Di Lernia, Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Milano, Italy, Daniele.DiLernia@unicatt.it