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Interoceptive awareness in focal brain-damaged patients

Abstract

Background

Interoception is the basic process enabling evaluation of one’s own internal state of body, but its alteration in brain-damaged patients has not been adequately investigated. Our study aimed to investigate awareness of visceral and somatosensorial sensations in brain-damaged patients with unilateral stroke.

Methods

Sixty patients (22 with left brain damage, LP; 25 with right brain damage without neglect, RPN-; and 13 with right brain-damage and extrapersonal and/or personal neglect, RPN+) and 45 healthy controls (HC) completed the Self-Awareness Questionnaire (SAQ), a self-report tool for assessing interoceptive awareness with two domains related to visceral (VD) and somatosensory feelings (SD), respectively.

Results

Comparing the SAQ subdomains scores between three groups of patients (LP, RPN-, and RPN+) and HC, we found that RPN+ had significantly lower scores on VD than HC and LP, whereas no significant difference was found on scores of SD between groups.

Conclusion

Our results support the hypothesis of a right-hemispheric dominance for “interoceptive neural network” suggesting that processing of visceral sensations would be located mainly in the right hemisphere. Therefore, a careful assessment of interoceptive awareness in clinical practice would be useful to improve rehabilitation and to engage patients with deficit of interoceptive awareness in developing greater accuracy of body signals.

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Acknowledgements

The authors thank Maria Giovanna Caruso for her help with recruitment of patients.

Funding

The present study has been supported by funding from Fondazione con il Sud to Liana Palermo (Brains2South – Project code: 2015-PDR-0248).

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Correspondence to Simona Raimo or Liana Palermo.

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S. Raimo and M. Boccia are co-first authors

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Raimo, S., Boccia, M., Di Vita, A. et al. Interoceptive awareness in focal brain-damaged patients. Neurol Sci 41, 1627–1631 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10072-019-04172-z

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Keywords

  • Interoception
  • Interoceptive awareness
  • Visceral feelings
  • Brain damage
  • Neglect