Studies in psychiatry and cognitive neuroscience have reported an important relationship between individual interoceptive accuracy and anxiety level. This indicates that greater attention to one's bodily state may contribute to the development of intense negative emotions and anxiety disorders. We hypothesized that reactivity in the anterior insular cortex underlies the intensity of interoceptive awareness and anxiety. To elucidate this triadic mechanism, we conducted functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and mediation analyses to examine the relationship between emotional disposition and activation in the anterior insular cortex while participants evaluated their own emotional and bodily states. Our results indicated that right anterior insular activation was positively correlated with individual levels of social anxiety and neuroticism and negatively correlated with agreeableness and extraversion. The results of the mediation analyses revealed that activity in the right anterior insula mediated the activity of neural correlates of interoceptive sensibility and social fear. Our findings suggest that attention to interoceptive sensation affects personality traits through how we feel emotion subjectively in various situations.
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