Research Topic

Interoception, Contemplative Practice, and Health

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There is an emergent movement of scientists and scholars working on somatic awareness and embodiment. This work cuts across studies of neurophysiology, somatic anthropology, contemplative practice, and mind-body medicine. Some of the key questions include: How is body awareness cultivated? What role does ...

There is an emergent movement of scientists and scholars working on somatic awareness and embodiment. This work cuts across studies of neurophysiology, somatic anthropology, contemplative practice, and mind-body medicine. Some of the key questions include: How is body awareness cultivated? What role does interoception play for emotion and cognition in healthy adults and children as well as in different psychopathologies? What are the neurophysiological effects of this cultivation in practices such as Yoga, mindfulness meditation, Tai Chi and other embodied contemplative practices? What categories from other traditions might be useful as we explore embodiment? Does the cultivation of body awareness within contemplative practice offer a tool for coping with suffering from conditions, such as pain, addiction, and dysregulated emotion?


This emergent field of research into somatic awareness and associated interoceptive processes, however, faces many obstacles. The principle obstacle lies in our 400-year Cartesian tradition that views sensory perception as epiphenomenal to cognition. The segregation of perception and cognition has enabled a broad program of cognitive science research, but may have also prevented researchers from developing paradigms for understanding how interoceptive awareness of sensations from inside the body influences cognition. The cognitive representation of interoceptive signals may play an active role in facilitating therapeutic transformation, e.g. by altering context in which cognitive appraisals of well-being occur. This topic has ramifications into disparate research fields: What is the role of interoceptive awareness in conscious presence? How do we distinguish between adaptive and maladaptive somatic awareness? How do we best measure somatic awareness? What are the consequences of dysregulated somatic/interoceptive awareness on cognition, emotion, and behavior? The complexity of these questions calls for the creative integration of perspectives and findings from related but often disparate research areas including clinical research, neuroscience, cognitive psychology, anthropology, religious/contemplative studies and philosophy.


We would like to encourage the scientific community to join in the discussion of these questions. Frontiers in Psychology offers an online dialogue to intensify collaborations and drive the next research in our field. We welcome new empirical findings, theoretical proposals as well as thorough scientific reviews, and specific topics can include but are not limited to:
• Neurological processes underlying the differentiation between contrasting modes of interoceptive awareness: hypervigilant or mindful.
• Embodied cognition and contemplative practices
• Interoceptive phenomenology across Eastern and Western cultural perspectives (prāna)
• Behavioral measures for modes of interoceptive awareness beyond interoceptive accuracy
• Measurable effects of contemplative practices on interoceptive awareness and accuracy
• Determination when interventions are appropriate that enhance interoceptive awareness or use interoceptive exposure in psychopathological conditions.
• Changes in interoceptive awareness and/or accuracy mediating health benefits from contemplative practices
• Role of interoceptive processes in emotion and cognition
• Interoceptive awareness in children
• Interoceptive awareness as an element of compassion
• Theoretical reviews for mechanisms underlying dysfunctional interoception.
• Evaluation of interoceptive exposure or awareness training as therapeutic applications for clinical populations


Note: articles or reviews that present ungrounded speculative opinion or lack any evidence-base will not be cons


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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