Journal of Advanced Neuroscience Research  (Special Issue - May 2017)
 Interoception and the Neurovisceral Axis as a Modal Basis for Computational Neuroecology janrhomeimage
Pages 20-36

Jesse Bettinger

Published: 12 May 2017
The defining parameters of neuroecology stand to benefit from a phenomenological expansion that includes the role of affect qua interoception as entailing a multimodal storehouse for specialized signal processing and brain architecture within the neurovisceral axis. The relationship between the gut and the brain represents an integral axis of communication drawing from the ecosystem of the microbiome as an environment for nerve-cell processes reflecting our habits of living and the influence of the luminal environment in higher-ordered cognition. This is shown to apply in both feedforward and inferential models of interoception. A surplus of evidence in recent years indicates that interoception and interoceptive awareness play a key role in influencing adaptive behavioral strategies, cognition, homeostatic regulation, decision-making, social relations and action. The groundwork for this expansion has already been positioned by preliminary efforts to offer a physiological basis for computational neuroecology and emotion qua somatic markers. Building off of their maiden report, this paper develops the richer neuroscientific landscape underwriting somatic markers in the context of the neurovisceral axis qua interoception and biological intuition. In the process we encounter an evolutionarily-rare and morphologically-specialized type of neuron conjectured to provide an advantage for social processing that eclipses the rudimentary notion of somatic markers, alone, and thereby enriches the descriptive landscape of neuroecological phenomena. Finally, we examine the inherent signal processing dynamics in cortical laminar layers as rendered in a newly-fashioned predictive coding account of interoception as a “limbic workspace theory” that interfaces with sensory signals between agranular and granular cells. Advances in predictive coding models and the free-energy principle stand poised to provide a unified model of neural signal processing encompassing sensory coding as well as adaptation in neurons, mood and behavior.The incorporation of interoceptive inference sheds critical light on anticipatory (feedback) signal-processing mechanisms in the brain. This suggests that an incorporation of interoceptive affect-in combination with cognition and adaptation-will shed critical light on further efforts to organize the driving epistemic structure and phenomenology associated with neuroecology.
 Neuroecology, Neuroethology, Interoception, Neurovisceral axis, Intuition, Affect and cognition, Predictive coding, Free-energy principle, Von Economo neurons.