Interoception and autonomic correlates during social interactions. Implications for anorexia

Marianna Ambrosecchia, Martina Ardizzi, Elisa Russo, Francesca Ditaranto, Maurizio Speciale, Piergiuseppe Vinai, Patrizia Todisco, Sandra Maestro, Vittorio Gallese

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The aim of this study is to investigate the bodily-self in Restrictive Anorexia, focusing on two basic aspects related to the bodily self: autonomic strategies in social behavior, in which others’ social desirability features, and social cues (e.g., gaze) are modulated, and interoception (i.e., the sensitivity to stimuli originating inside the body). Furthermore, since previous studies carried out on healthy individuals found that interoception seems to contribute to the autonomic regulation of social behavior, as measured by Respiratory Sinus Arrhythmia (RSA), we aimed to explore this link in anorexia patients, whose ability to perceive their bodily signal seems to be impaired. To this purpose, we compared a group of anorexia patients (ANg; restrictive type) with a group of Healthy Controls (HCg) for RSA responses during both a resting state and a social proxemics task, for their explicit judgments of comfort in social distances during a behavioral proxemics task, and for their Interoceptive Accuracy (IA). The results showed that ANg displayed significantly lower social disposition and a flattened autonomic reactivity during the proxemics task, irrespective of the presence of others’ socially desirable features or social cues. Moreover, unlike HCg, the autonomic arousal of ANg did not guide behavioral judgments of social distances. Finally, IA was strictly related to social disposition in both groups, but with opposite trends in ANg. We conclude that autonomic imbalance and its altered relationship with interoception might have a crucial role in anorexia disturbances.

Original languageEnglish
Article number219
JournalFrontiers in Human Neuroscience
Publication statusPublished - May 17 2017


  • Anorexia nervosa
  • Autonomic reactivity
  • Bodily self
  • Interoception
  • Interoceptive accuracy
  • Proxemics
  • Sinus respiratory arrhythmia
  • Social interaction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Neurology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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