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Heart-Brain Interactions Shape Somatosensory Perception and Evoked Potentials

By Esra Al, Fivos Iliopoulos, Norman Forschack, Till Nierhaus, Martin Grund, PaweĊ‚ Motyka, Michael Gaebler, Vadim V. Nikulin, Arno Villringer

Posted 29 Aug 2019
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/750315 (published DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1915629117)

Human perception either refers to the external world, exteroception, or internal body parts such as the heart, interoception. How these two types of perception interact is poorly understood. Using electroencephalography, we identify two heartbeat-related modulations of conscious somatosensory perception: (i) When stimulus timing coincided with systole of the cardiac cycle, participants were less likely to detect and localize somatosensory stimuli, and late components (P300) of the somatosensory-evoked potential (SEP) were attenuated. (ii) The amplitude of the heartbeat-evoked potential (HEP) negatively correlated with detection bias (criterion) and localization accuracy. Furthermore, higher HEP amplitudes were followed by decreases in both early and late SEP amplitudes. Both heartbeat-related effects were independent of the alpha oscillations' influence on somatosensory processing. We conclude that internal signals are integrated into our conscious perception of the world, and connect our results to predictive processing (heartbeat-coupled stimulus timing) and attentional shifts between exteroception and interoception (HEP amplitude).

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