Thursday, November 7, 2013

Interoception: Balancing Inside and Out

One of the most insightful terms I have come across in a long time is the term: Interoception.  Although quite intuitive, I had never heard of it expressed with an actual term.

Interoception is formally the same concept as the more familiar term "proprioception"...however it is fundamentally exclusive.  Proprioception is sensitivity and sensory information received from the external environment such as temperature, gradients, pressure, velocity, etc.  Interoception is defined as: sensitivity to stimuli originating inside of the body.  

To expand on this a little more, the interoceptive process is autonomic, involuntary, and exists on what is essentially a "primitive" level.  It has been associated with visceral sensory neuroscience...which effectively theorizes that there is a high level of afferent (towards the brain, sensory) activity that is being generated from the internal organs and visceral organizational network that ultimately affect our mood, sense of well-being, and emotions.  This is an obviously fascinating topic for me simply due to the fact that this term lends to the fundamental understanding of systemic homeostasis...and perhaps more importantly, provides insight into potential "management strategies" to expand, enhance, and broaden rehabilitative strategies.  Further, this presents a viable bridge (or at least realistic extrapolation) to the idea that visceral manipulation (in its varied forms --- Osteopathy, Fascia Therapy, etc...) can essentially generate improvement in those elusive "intangible" and qualitative metrics (happiness, sense of self, relaxation). 

Like most innovative ideas, this perspective and form of thought came from Russia and Eastern Europe starting with Pavlov...however, it seems that even with our supposed "advanced technological capabilities" we cannot even seem to rationalize that which can't be measured quantitatively.  Interoception involves slightly smaller nerve bundles that access higher and deeper functioning within the brain and therefore is "lumped" within the context of the autonomic nervous system. 

The theoretical and conceptual formulation may yet take time to fully resolve and crystalize...however from a practical perspective, this further confirms what many practitioners have objectively observed for quite awhile...there is a definite link between visceral manipulation and global enhancement of health and well-being.  Further, that the myth that the brain and nervous system are somehow elevated to a "higher plane" is debunked...and the realization that they are fundamentally material comes into perspective.  Material is subject to mechanical influence and therefore the logical extrapolation of fact is that what we do has a direct impact on "who we are".   Although we are far from fully understanding what can perhaps be considered as "metaphysical" should none-the-less be given adequate consideration and study so that treatment outcomes are more effective and manifest their maximum potential. 

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