Rhesus monkeys have an interoceptive sense of their beating hearts

Joey A Charbonneau, Lara Maister, Manos Tsakiris, Eliza Bliss-Moreau

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The sensation of internal bodily signals, such as when your stomach is contracting or your heart is beating, plays a critical role in broad biological and psychological functions ranging from homeostasis to emotional experience and self-awareness. The evolutionary origins of this capacity and, thus, the extent to which it is present in nonhuman animals remain unclear. Here, we show that rhesus monkeys (Macaca mulatta) spend significantly more time viewing stimuli presented asynchronously, as compared to synchronously, with their heartbeats. This is consistent with evidence previously shown in human infants using a nearly identical experimental paradigm, suggesting that rhesus monkeys have a human-like capacity to integrate interoceptive signals from the heart with exteroceptive audiovisual information. As no prior work has demonstrated behavioral evidence of innate cardiac interoceptive ability in nonhuman animals, these results have important implications for our understanding of the evolution of this ability and for establishing rhesus monkeys as an animal model for human interoceptive function and dysfunction. We anticipate that this work may also provide an important model for future psychiatric research, as disordered interoceptive processing is implicated in a wide variety of psychiatric conditions.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2119868119
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number16
Publication statusPublished - 11 Apr 2022


  • Animals
  • Awareness
  • Heart
  • Heart Rate
  • Interoception
  • Macaca mulatta
  • Models, Animal

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