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The Internal Sense

Interoception refers to the processing of stimuli arising inside the body (e.g. cardiac signals), in contrast to exteroception which relates to processing of stimuli arising outside of the body. While the dominant research paradigm in neuroscience has been focused on the latter, it is becoming clear that to fully account for cognitive, emotional, and behavioral processes and their underlying neural substrate, interoception must also be considered. The gut and the brain are known to be intimately related and richly connected by bidirectional physiological and anatomical pathways. Such interactions have important implications for a host of functional gastrointestinal disorders as well as to obesity and eating disorders. However, they also go far beyond gastrointestinal functions and are important for domains such as emotion processing and high-level cognition. Moreover, the slow-wave electrical activity arising from the stomach, were also shown to play a role in dynamic functional brain organization. Research into these interactions, has substantially advanced but is far from being fully resolved and still lags behind current knowledge on other interoceptive signals such as those arising from the heart. Hence, our research goal is to focus on the electrical signals arising from the gastrointestinal (GI) system as a window and a model domain for understanding the role of interoceptive signals in cognition and dynamic brain organization. 

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