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Beyond homeostasis: visceral signals influence higher order cognitive and emotional processes

12 June 2024
9:00 am
San Francesco Complex - Sagrestia

While conventionally regarded as serving primarily a homeostatic function, visceral signals, such as cardiac, respiratory, and gastrointestinal signals, have emerged as potent indicators of higher-order cognitive and emotional processes.

In a series of studies, I will discuss how cardiac signals impact the perception of fatigue (Study 1), how respiratory signals influence self-awareness (Study 2), and how gastric signals contribute to emotional experiences (Study 3). Finally, I will highlight the importance of being aware of and interpreting one’s own visceral signals - an ability known as interception - especially during a pandemic cries (Study 4), and in clinical populations, such as females with Anorexia Nervosa (Study 5). I will also describe how we assess the direct impact of cardiac, respiratory, and gastric signals using established psychophysiological methodologies such as electrocardiography (ECG) and electrogastrography (EGG), as well as innovative technologies like ingestible capsules.

Altogether, our findings reveal that visceral signals and their awareness play a crucial role in shaping the physiological state of the body and the awareness of having a body and being in control of it. Moreover, our findings highlight the crucial role of the stomach in the emotional experience of disgust, fear and happiness, and suggest that ingestible pills may open new avenues for exploring the deep-body physiology of emotions. Finally, our results show that interception changes during different stages of the pandemic and is altered in individuals with Anorexia Nervosa, thus playing a role in determining individuals' physical and mental health.


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Giuseppina Porciello, “Sapienza” University of Rome