Effects of acute alcohol administration on interoception

First published: 10 May 2019 | Last updated: 20 May 2019

Mr Mateo Leganes

Interoception, the sense of physiological condition of the body1, appears to be a construct relevant to the understanding of Addiction processes, as substance use patients show decreased Interoceptive Accuracy2. This could be related to abnormalities found in Insula, the cerebral area processing bodily sensations, on drug-addicted individuals3.

The purpose of this experiment was to examine the effect of acute alcohol administration on Interoception.

In a double-blind between subjects design, participants were administered different doses of alcohol mixed in a 500ml drink (0.6g/kg, n=16 or 0.4g/kg, n=19). Eighteen participants were administered a non-alcoholic placebo to conform a control group. Ten minutes after drink administration Breath Alcohol Levels (BAL) were measured and participants undertook Heartbeat Matching and Discrimination tasks, two procedures aiming at measuring their Interoceptive Accuracy. Their confidence levels on each of the tasks were also assessed with a visual analog scale in order to compute Interoceptive Sensibility and Metacognitive Interoceptive Awareness measures1.

An ANOVA comparing Metacognitive Interoceptive Awareness on the Discrimination task between the groups found significant effects (F(2,50)=3.185, p=0.5), due to a decrease in the low dose condition compared to the placebo group (p=0.023).

Under the high alcohol condition, Metacognitive Interoceptive Awareness  on the Tracking task negatively correlated with BAL, r(16)=-0.525, p=0.37. On the low alcohol condition, Interoceptive Sensibility positively correlated with BAL, r(19)=0.544, p=0.016.

These results show that Interoceptive Awareness can be disrupted by acute alcohol administration, possibly due to a decrease in Interoceptive Accuracy or to an overconfidence on judgments.

1Garfinkel, S. N., Seth, A. K., Barrett, A. B., Suzuki, K., & Critchley, H. D. (2014). Knowing your own heart: Distinguishing interoceptive accuracy from interoceptive awareness. Biological Psychology, 104, 65 – 74. doi:10.1016/j.biopsycho.2014.11.004

3Naqvi, N. H., Gaznick, N., Tranel, D., & Bechara, A. (2014). The insula: a critical neural substrate for craving and drug seeking under conflict and risk. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1316, 53 – 70. doi:10.1111/nyas.12415

2Sönmez, M. B., Kılıç, E. K., Çöl, I. A., Görgülü, Y., & Çınar, R. K. (2016). Decreased interoceptive awareness in patients with substance use disorders. http://dx.doi.org/10.3109/14659891.2016.1143048.


Please cite as follows: Mateo Leganes Fonteneau, Yun Cheang, Yan Lam, Sarah Garfinkel, Theodora Duka. School of Psychology, University of Sussex, Brighton, UK Yun Cheang: Graduate in Psychology Yan Lam: Graduate in Psychology Sarah Garfinkel: Research Fellow at Sussex University Theodora Duka: Professor at Sussex University

Conflicts of interest:

Funding Sources: Sussex University

no conflict of interest

Mr Mateo Leganes