The Feeling of Me Feeling for You: Interoception, Alexithymia and Empathy in Autism
- 1.7k Downloads
Following recent evidence for a link between interoception, emotion and empathy, we investigated relationships between these factors in autism spectrum disorder (ASD). 26 adults with ASD and 26 healthy participants completed tasks measuring interoception, alexithymia and empathy. ASD participants with alexithymia demonstrated lower cognitive and affective empathy than ASD participants without alexithymia. ASD participants showed reduced interoceptive sensitivity (IS), and also reduced interoceptive awareness (IA). IA was correlated with empathy and alexithymia, but IS was related to neither. Alexithymia fulfilled a mediating role between IA and empathy. Our findings are suggestive of an alexithymic subgroup in ASD, with distinct interoceptive processing abilities, and have implications for diagnosis and interventions.
KeywordsAutism Interoception Empathy Alexithymia
This study was funded by Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge, UK, as part of the doctoral study of Cari-lène Mul.
CM and JA designed the experiment. SS conducted the diagnostic interviews. BH created experimental software. CM recruited participants, collected the data, and analysed the data. All authors discussed the results and contributed to the final manuscript.
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Conflict of interest
The authors declare no conflict of interest.
- Baron-Cohen, S., Wheelwright, S., Skinner, R., Martin, J., & Clubley, E. (2001). The autism-Spectrum quotient (AQ): Evidence from Asperger syndrome/high-functioning autism, males and females, scientists and mathematicians. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 31(1), 5–17.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Craig, A. (2008). Interoception and emotion: A neuroanatomical perspective. In Handbook of emotions (3rd ed., pp. 272–292). New York: Guildford Press.Google Scholar
- Damasio, A. (2000). The feeling of what happens: Body and emotion in the making of consciousness. San Diego: Harvest Books.Google Scholar
- Dunn, B. D., Stefanovitch, I., Evans, D., Oliver, C., Hawkins, A., & Dalgleish, T. (2010). Can you feel the beat? Interoceptive awareness is an interactive function of anxiety-and depression-specific symptom dimensions. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 48(11), 1133–1138.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
- Dziobek, I., Rogers, K., Fleck, S., Bahnemann, M., Heekeren, H. R., Wolf, O. T., & Convit, A. (2008). Dissociation of cognitive and emotional empathy in adults with Asperger syndrome using the multifaceted empathy test. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 38, 464–473.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Fiene, L., & Brownlow, C. (2015). Investigating interoception and body awareness in adults with and without autism spectrum disorder. Autism Research, 8, 709–716.Google Scholar
- Grynberg, D., Chang, B., Corneille, O., Maurage, P., Vermeulen, N., Berthoz, S., & Luminet, O. (2012). Alexithymia and the processing of emotional facial expressions (EFEs): Systematic review, unanswered questions and further perspectives. PLoS ONE, 7, e42429.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
- Hayes, A. F. (2013). Introduction to mediation, moderation, and conditional process analysis: A regression-based approach. New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
- Linden, W., Wen, F., & Paulhus, D. (1995). Measuring alexithymia: Reliability, validity, and prevalence. Advances in Personality Assessment, 10, 51–95.Google Scholar
- Lord, C., Risi, S., Lambrecht, L., Cook, E. H. Jr., Leventhal, B. L., DiLavore, P. C., … Rutter, M. (2000). The autism diagnostic observation schedule—Generic: A standard measure of social and communication deficits associated with the spectrum of autism. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 30(3), 205–223.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Nemiah, J., Freyberger, H., & Sifneos, P. (1976). Alexithymia: A view of the psychosomatic process. Modern Trends in Psychosomatic Medicine, 3, 430–439.Google Scholar
- Ochsner, K. N., Zaki, J., Hanelin, J., Ludlow, D. H., Knierim, K., Ramachandran, T., … Mackey, S. C. (2008). Your pain or mine? Common and distinct neural systems supporting the perception of pain in self and other. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 3(2), 144–160.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
- Porges, S. (1993). Body perception questionnaire. College Park: Laboratory of Developmental Assessment, University of Maryland.Google Scholar
- Wechsler, D. (2011). Wechsler abbreviated scale of intelligence—second edition (WASI-II). San Antonio, TX: NCS Pearson.Google Scholar