Suppression of the auditory N1-component for heartbeat-related sounds reflects interoceptive predictive coding
Although many studies have elucidated the neurocognitive mechanisms supporting the processing of externally generated sensory signals, less is known about the processing of interoceptive signals related to the viscera. Drawing a parallel with research on agency and the perception of self-generated action effects, in the present EEG study we report a reduced auditory N1 component when participants listened to heartbeat-related sounds compared to externally generated sounds. The auditory suppression for heartbeat sounds was robust and persisted after controlling for ECG-related artifacts, the number of trials involved and the phase of the cardiac cycle. In addition, the auditory N1 suppression for heartbeat-related sounds had a comparable scalp distribution as the N1 suppression observed for actively generated sounds. This finding indicates that the brain automatically differentiates between heartbeat-related and externally generated sounds through a process of sensory suppression, suggesting that a comparable predictive mechanism may underlie the processing of heartbeat and action-related information. Extending recent behavioral data about cardio-visual integration, the present cardio-auditory EEG data reveal that the processing of sounds in auditory cortex is systematically modulated by an interoceptive cardiac signal. The findings are discussed with respect to theories of interoceptive awareness, emotion, predictive coding, and their relevance to bodily self-consciousness. (C) 2014 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.