NCCIH Research Blog

Interoception and Health: New Journal Article and Funding Opportunity

January 22, 2021

Wen G. Chen, Ph.D.

Wen Chen, Ph.D.

Branch Chief and Program Director

Basic and Mechanistic Research in Complementary and Integrative Health Branch

National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health

View biographical sketch

In recent decades, neuroscience has made enormous progress in understanding how we sense and respond to the external world. Less is known about the interoceptive system—the ways in which we sense and respond to signals from within ourselves. 

Dysfunctions in interoception may play important roles in many neurological, psychiatric, and behavioral disorders. Gaining a better understanding of how interoception works may help us develop better ways to treat these conditions.

New Review in Trends in Neurosciences

In a new review, “The emerging science of interoception: sensing, integrating, interpreting, and regulating signals within the self,” published in Trends in Neurosciences, a group of us from several National Institutes of Health (NIH) institutes and centers (ICs) proposes a unified research framework for interoception science in the hope of accelerating progress in this emerging field. We suggest definitions of key terms related to interoceptive processes, elaborate on the definitions through illustrative research findings, and provide brief overviews of central aspects of interoception. We also discuss the major research gaps and challenges, both conceptual and methodological, in interoception science.

Our review, which is part of a special journal issue on the neuroscience of interoception, draws from the discussions at the 2019 workshop “The Science of Interoception and Its Roles in Nervous System Disorders,” which was convened by the NIH Blueprint for Neuroscience Research and co-led by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) and the NIH Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research. 

New Funding Opportunity for Interoception Research

NIH has just published a new Notice of Special Interest (NOSI) to promote innovative, rigorous basic and clinical research on interoception and its impact on health and disease (NOT-AT-21-002). Many NIH institutes and centers, including NCCIH, are participating.

Within the very broad scope of this initiative, NCCIH is specifically interested in supporting research on understanding the fundamental mechanisms of interoception or the development and validation of innovative methods, tools, and technologies to assess interoceptive processes relevant to complementary and integrative health approaches. High-priority topics for our Center include:

  • Studies focusing on evaluating multiple organ systems and their interactions in the context of complementary and integrative health approaches
  • Studies with relevance to health outcomes such as pain, anxiety, mild-to-moderate depression, sleep, cardiovascular or digestive dysfunctions, well-being, resilience, health restoration, or disease prevention.

NCCIH will accept applications that propose either preclinical or clinical research, but if you propose a clinical trial, it must be mechanistic. We will not fund trials with clinical outcomes through this NOSI.

If you’re interested in applying, I recommend you read this blog post about NOSIs, which gives important tips on how to use them to apply for grants. And please reach out to me or other program directors listed under “Scientific Contacts” in the NOSI early so we can discuss your potential project and how it aligns with both the overall goals of this funding opportunity and NCCIH’s or other participating NIH ICs’ specific research interests. You can reach me at chenw@mail.nih.gov.

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