The National Institutes of Health is awarding seven projects totaling $ 18.15 million over five years for a new effort focused on interoception – the way organisms perceive and regulate signals in their bodies. Interoception is not well understood and is a new area of research for the NIH. This coordinated effort, involving multiple NIH institutes and centers, will address critical knowledge gaps and challenges in understanding interoception that other major NIH research initiatives are not addressing.
The interoception research effort is part of the NIH’s Blueprint for Neuroscience Research, and the seven funded studies aim to improve researchers’ understanding of nervous system function and disorders, and the role of interoception in human health.
Interoception disorders can play an important role in many neurological, psychiatric, and behavioral disorders. A better understanding of how interoception works can help us develop better ways to treat these disorders. “
Helene Langevin, MD, Director, National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), NIH
The Blueprint for Neuroscience Research is a collaborative framework through which 14 NIH institutes, centers and offices, including the NCCIH, jointly support research on the nervous system. The seven funded projects investigate the neural circuits involved in functional communication between organ systems and the brain for processes such as digestion, metabolism and respiration in experimental model systems. You will also try to understand the health consequences of signal interference between the brain and these organ systems.
“Research is needed to understand how a wide variety of body functions interact with our neural circuitry to determine how we feel and how neural activity continuously and automatically modulates critical body functions. Understanding the integration of neural systems in our bodies can do that to lead.” to treat a variety of diseases and help many feel better, “said Dr. Walter Koroshetz, director of the National Institute on Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS).
The seven projects funded by the Blueprint for Neuroscience Research are:
- Functional neural circuits of gastric brain interoception; University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, Ann Arbor, Michigan: Zhongming Liu, Ph.D. and Jiande Chen, Ph.D. This project will map the bi-directional communication pathways between the brain and the stomach. It will also study how nutrients and other gastric stimuli affect brain activity, as well as examine the regions of the brain that send signals to control gastric function. (Grant # R01 AT011665-01)
- Dissecting the interoception circuit that controls airway constriction; University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, California: Xin Sun, Ph.D. This project will map the neural circuits through which signals travel between the lungs and the brain when an allergen is detected. It also attempts to determine which neurons are activated by signals in the peripheral ganglia and brain regions, including the core of the solitary tract. It uses various stimuli to assess the gain and loss of lung function in relation to key vagus, spine, and brain connections. (Grant # R01 AT011676-01)
- Metabolic changes: connection of temperature-sensing neurons with sympathetic adipose tissue stimulation; Louisiana State University Pennington Biomedical Research Center, Baton Rouge, Louisiana: Heike Muenzberg-Gruening, Ph.D. This project will study how the brain and adipose tissue communicate using the sympathetic nervous system to regulate levels of leptin hormones. It will use cutting edge techniques to identify new excitatory and inhibitory neural circuits for brown and white adipose tissue. It also examines how different physiological states – high versus low body temperature, fasting versus food intake – affect the interactions between adipose tissue and areas of the brain involved in temperature control and taste perception. (Grant # R01 AT011683-01)
- Functional identification of vagal sensory neurons that innervate the liver; Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, New York: Young-Hwan Jo, Ph.D. This project will map the way the liver and brain communicate by using the sympathetic nervous system to regulate glucose production, metabolism and control processes in the body, and to direct other functions controlled by the liver. It will also examine the possible effects of disruptions in this path. (Grant # R01 AT011653-01)
- Dissecting neural circuits for breathing patterns; University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, Ann Arbor, Michigan: Peng Li, Ph.D. This project seeks to understand whether brainstem neurons that express one of two peptides – gastrin-releasing peptide (Grp) or tachykinin 1 (Tac1) – play a central role in controlling two respiratory reflexes that protect the airways when breathing : Sighing and coughing. It will also study the responses of the brain circuit to signals associated with these reflexes. By identifying the cells and molecules involved in this signal transmission, the aim is to show how the brain processes interoceptive signals related to sighs and coughs. (Grant # R01 AT011652-01)
- Disentangling pulmonary interoception and its functional consequences in the developing sheep lung; Loma Linda University, Loma Linda, California: Arlin B. Blood, Ph.D. and Christopher G. Wilson, Ph.D. This project will investigate the role of intrinsic pulmonary interoceptors and their circuits in the normal development of the lungs and central respiratory networks. It will map the pulmonary interoceptor circuitry from the lungs to the brain and study the possible effects of disturbances in this signaling pathway on lung structure and function during the life cycle of the fetus and the newborn. (Grant # R01 AT011691-01)
- Spinal sensory ganglia and gut feeling; Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, New York: Ivan De Araujo, Ph.D. This project investigates how the body uses sensory nerves in the spine to receive signals about changes in the intestine, such as: It also examines how gastric spine-brain conduits affect brain circuits in the parietal cortex, insular cortex, and orbitofrontal cortex, as well as functions such as the reward response in the brain. (Grant # R01 AT011697-01)
“Interoceptive processes play an important role in a number of different cognitive and emotional behaviors. Basic research studies, as supported by the Blueprint Initiative, will provide the basic anatomical and functional data needed to improve our understanding of interoception and fuel future studies. ”We focus on how dysfunction in interoceptive pathways can contribute to mental illness and other brain disorders, “said Joshua A. Gordon, MD, Ph.D., director of the National Institute of Mental Health.
National Health Institute