About this Research Topic
The neurobiological pathways connecting brain and body play a central role in health and wellbeing.
For example, deficient interoception (the detection and interpretation of signals originating from
inside the body) has been linked to a range of mental health conditions, including mood and anxiety
disorders, developmental, and eating disorders.
A key driver of mental and physical wellbeing is the capacity for social connection; an ability that
starts to develop during early childhood. Previously it was argued that interoception and social
connection are associated, however, empirical data supporting this suggestion is currently limited. For
example, little is known about whether interoceptive signals (e.g., those underlying emotion such as
the heartbeat, and / or social signals such as affective touch) play a broader role in prosocial behavior
and social connection. Additionally, hitherto there has been minimal investigation of the mechanisms
linking interoception and social connection (e.g., attention switching, cognitive and affective
empathy, or perspective-taking). There is also little evidence about how interoception develops, the
role of attachment, and how these interact with other important developmental factors such as diet.
There is also a lack of normative data concerning aspects of interoception at different developmental
stages. Finally, there is a paucity of evidence relating interoception to developmental disorders such
as autism spectrum disorders (ASD), or alexithymia. Understanding more about abnormalities in
interoception and the potential association with social connection is important as it may help explain
why autistic and individuals with alexithymia struggle to develop social connections, communicate
with others, and lack theory of mind.
Given the lack of evidence in the mentioned areas, this Research Topic aims to (1) Identify the ways
in which interoception relates to social connectedness, perspective-taking, or prosocial behaviour; (2)
Increase understanding of the development of interoceptive processes in relation to prosocial
behavior and social connection; (3) Identify the neurobiological mechanisms connecting
interoception and social connection, for example perspective-taking; (4) Emphasis on the role that
interoception and HRV play as mediating and moderating factors of wellbeing, such as psychological
flexibility. Each of these aims will be enhanced through the development of more rigorous and
innovative research methodologies aimed at assessing interoceptive and social processes, therefore we
are particularly interested in manuscripts demonstrating the reliability / validity of novel measurement
We welcome authors to contribute with studies focusing on:
1. The identification of novel approaches to studying interoception and social connectedness
(e.g., use of EEG and fMRI).
2. Studies providing normative data concerning interoception / heart rate variability at different
3. The exploration of touch, perspective-taking, peer bonding etc., as means of social connection
and within a neurological context.
4. Interoception and/ or heart rate variability in clinical conditions such as autistic spectrum
conditions and eating disorders, as well as dysfunctional personal relations, to explain
problems with their ability to develop social connection, prosocial behaviour, and theory of
5. The identification of specific developmental processes such as attachment, diet, childhood
adversity on interoception / heart rate variability.
6. The exploration of the role of interoception and HRV as mediating and moderating factors of
wellbeing such as psychological flexibility.
Keywords: Heart rate variability, Interoception, Prosocial (socially connected) behaviour, Theory of Mind, Psychological Flexibility
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