Interoception is the sense of the physiological condition of the entire body. Impaired interoception has been associated with aberrant activity of the insula in major depressive disorder (MDD) during heartbeat perception tasks. Despite clinical relevance, studies investigating interoceptive impairments in MDD have never been reviewed systematically according to the guidelines of the PRISMA protocol, and therefore we collated studies that assessed accuracy in detecting heartbeat sensations (interoceptive accuracy, IAc) in MDD (databases: PubMed/Medline, PsycINFO, and PsycARTICLES). Out of 389 records, six studies met the inclusion criteria. The main findings suggest that (i) moderately depressed samples exhibit the largest interoceptive deficits as compared with healthy adults. (ii) difficulties in decision making and low affect intensity are correlated with low IAc, and (iii) IAc seems to normalize in severely depressed subjects. These associations may be confounded by sex, anxiety or panic disorder, and intake of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. Our findings have implications for the development of interoceptive treatments that might relieve MDD-related symptoms or prevent relapse in recurrent depression by targeting the interoceptive nervous system.
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