Heightened Interoception in Adults with Fibromyalgia  

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Previous research suggests that the processing of internal body sensations (interoception) affects how we experience pain. Some evidence suggests that people with fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS) – a condition characterised by chronic pain and fatigue – may have altered interoceptive processing. However, extant findings are inconclusive, and some tasks previously used to measure interoception are of questionable validity. Here, we used an alternative measure – the Phase Adjustment Task (PAT) – to examine cardiac interoceptive accuracy in adults with FMS. We examined: (i) the tolerability of the PAT in an FMS sample (N = 154); (ii) if there are differences in facets of interoception (PAT performance, PAT-related confidence, and scores on the Private Body Consciousness Scale) between an FMS sample and an age- and gender-matched pain-free sample (N = 94); and (iii) if subgroups of participants with FMS are identifiable according to interoceptive accuracy levels. We found the PAT was tolerable in the FMS sample, with additional task breaks and a recommended hand posture. The FMS sample were more likely to be classified as ‘interoceptive’ on the PAT, and had significantly higher self-reported interoception compared to the pain-free sample. Within the FMS sample, we identified a subgroup who demonstrated very strong evidence of being interoceptive, and concurrently had lower fibromyalgia symptom impact (although the effect size was small). Conversely, self-reported interoception was positively correlated with FMS symptom severity and impact. Overall, interoception may be an important factor to consider in understanding and managing FMS symptoms. We recommend future longitudinal work to better understand associations between fluctuating FMS symptoms and interoception.
Original languageEnglish
JournalBiological Psychology
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 30 Jan 2024

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