What is happening around you right now? What sort of sounds can you hear? What sorts of things can you smell? Can you see anything interesting happening?
We can understand and detect things happening in our environment because our senses send us information. When you can see your friend waving at you, it is your eyes that notice them and tell your brain what you are seeing. This sense is called Vision. If they walk over and start to talk to you, you can hear them because of a sense called Sound. If they offer you an orange, you may notice that the skin feels rough as you peel it, because of your sense of Touch. You may also notice its citrusy aroma because of your sense of Smell, and how sweet it is because of a sense called Taste.
Vision, sound, touch, smell and taste. We have words for all of these senses. But what about when we try to feel what’s happening inside our body? Does this have a word?
Close your eyes and focus on what you can sense inside your body. How do your muscles feel? Are they relaxed, or are they feeling tense? What about your stomach? Can you feel it grumbling because you’re hungry? Or is it feeling full of food? Or what about your heartbeat? Is it beating slowly or quickly?
We can feel lots of sensations in our body, and we call this sense “Interoception.”
But how does it work?
Well, inside your body, there are lots of tiny things called receptors. They live in all parts of your body, from your skin and bones, to your muscles and organs. The job of the receptors is to receive information from these parts of your body and pass that information on to the brain. The brain then takes this information and tries to figure out which parts of the body they come from and what the message means. Then, the brain tells you!
Interoception can affect lots of different things, including our emotions. For example, the feeling of butterflies in our stomach lets us know that we are feeling nervous. We can feel our heart race if we feel excited. The sensations in our body can provide us with information about how we are feeling, and without this information, it can be difficult to identify which emotions we are experiencing.
Some people find it easy to spot the signals coming from their body and some people find it harder. In our study, we want to try and find out why this happens, and whether this affects the way that people eat. For example, how well you can feel signals from your stomach might change how much you want to eat. Sometimes we forget to eat because we don’t notice we are hungry, and sometimes we eat a lot because we haven’t noticed that we are getting full.
If you would like to help us to investigate this, we would love you to take part in our study. If you have any questions about the study, click on the “Contact the Researchers” page and we will happily answer your questions.