Estimating the stability of heartbeat counting in middle childhood: a twin study.
Murphy J., Cheesman R., Gregory AM., Lau J., Ehlers A., Catmur C., Bird G., Eley TC.
There is growing interest in interoception, the perception of the body's internal state, and its relevance for health across development. Most evidence linking interoception to health has used the heartbeat counting task. However, the temporal stability of the measure, particularly during childhood, and the etiological factors that underlie stability, remain largely unexamined. Using data from the ECHO twin sample we estimated the magnitude of genetic and environmental influences on the stability of heartbeat counting across two years (age 8-10), the longest time-frame examined. Heartbeat counting accuracy was modestly correlated across time, (r = .35), and accuracy improved with age. Non-shared environmental factors accounted for the most variance at both time points and were the main contributors to temporal stability of heartbeat counting. Future research should seek to identify these non-shared environmental factors and elucidate whether this relatively modest stability reflects variability of interoception across development or unreliability of the heartbeat counting task.