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Q&A: Sarah Garfinkel, consciousness researcher, on your sixth sense

Can you detect your own heartbeat? If so, you may have the power of interoception and even have a richer emotional life. Here's how to find out.

There's a new area of scientific study that has uncovered a skill that could be considered our sixth sense. It's called interoception and it's the ability to monitor your own internal organs. For instance, how interoceptive you are can be measured by your ability to accurately count your heart beat, by just tuning into it.

So it's a skill, or talent, that involves being quite in tune with one's body. And this ability is associated with some interesting and useful traits. Those who are highly interoceptive are also highly intuitive and aware of their "gut" feelings. They also apparently have a better memory for emotional information and are more emotional overall. Awareness of one's emotional and physiological state may also reward people with an ability to control it. For instance, one study has found that those who have good interoceptive ability are also less anxious when speaking in public.

SmartPlanet caught up with Sarah Garfinkel, a post-doc researcher at the Sackler Centre for Consciousness Science at the University of Essex, and asked her to explain interoception, how it is measured and how one might be able to improve their own interoceptive ability.


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