Generalized hypervigilance in fibromyalgia: Normal interoceptive accuracy, but reduced self-regulatory capacity

Silke Rost, Dimitri M L Van Ryckeghem, André Schulz, Geert Crombez, Claus Vögele

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Citations (SciVal)


Objective: The factors underlying the aetiology of fibromyalgia (FM) are largely unknown. According to the generalized hypervigilance hypothesis (GHH), FM patients show excessive attention towards pain stimuli and other sensory events, thereby increasing pain perception and dysfunctional behaviour. We tested this notion by assessing interoceptive accuracy (IA) in FM patients and matched healthy controls. We also tested the hypothesis that FM is characterized by reduced self-regulatory capacity as indexed by heart rate variability (HRV). 

Methods: 47 FM patients (Mage = 45.5, 39 females) and 45 healthy controls (Mage = 44.9, 37 females) completed several self-report scales (Body Vigilance Scale, Depression Anxiety Stress Scales, Pain Catastrophizing Scale). To derive HRV, heart rate was monitored under resting conditions; for the assessment of IA participants performed a heartbeat tracking task in which they were asked to silently count their heartbeats. 

Results: FM patients reported higher body vigilance than healthy controls, but there were no group differences in IA. FM patients had lower HRV compared with healthy controls. HRV did not predictor IA. 

Conclusion: In conclusion, our findings do not support the hypothesis of generalized hypervigilance in FM patients. Patients reported a heightened focus on bodily sensations, which was not reflected in IA. It may be that hypervigilance is not a general and stable characteristic but is rather context dependent and modality-specific.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)48-54
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Psychosomatic Research
Early online date6 Dec 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2017


  • Fibromyalgia
  • Generalized hypervigilance
  • Heart rate variability
  • Interoceptive accuracy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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