Inbodied Interaction 102 – there’s more to the brain for HCI than the cortex


A short course for HCI researchers to inform tool building for inbodied self-awareness and self-knowledge: to help people feel how we feel via our inbodied processes, so we can build tools to help people build the knowledge skills and practice to explore options to literally feel better.

Image result for insula
The insula. is a wee tiny (relatively tiny) area of the cortex, resting close to the midbrain, that is responsible for a whole lot of integration of signals from other parts of the body and brain, used for sense-making of state. This sensual and emotive processing assists us from posture to digestion to creativity. It is the epicenter, it seems, for interoception – our capacity to manage, intergrate and thrive in our homeostasis.

Welcome to the MidBrain and Cerebellum

Fig AB-35: Build A Brain, Step 10
Cerebellum – fan like bit beneath the cortex and brain stem or First Brain – running up under the cortex.

Where the cortex, and somatosensory regions of the cortex (the blue and red bands in the above image of the brain that run across the middle of the cortex) in particular may be familiar to HCI researchers working in Brain-Computer Interafaces – the cerebellum and brainstem (below images) and the cranial nerves themseleves, are less charted territories.

From an inbodied interaction perspective, where the brain is part of the body, and responds immeidately and exactly with the whole body

Inbodied Interaction 102 Course focus

This course follows on from concepts of adaptation, plasticity, homeostasis, tuning and in5 from Inbodied Interaction 101. The course includes two main components: (1) developing a deeper knowledge of what may be framed as inbodied self-awareness/self-integration systems and (2) learning associated assessments and opportunities for strengthening/balancing these systems.

All but the olifactory nerve is integrated within the midbrain

In particular, the course will look at: the insula, brain stem (pons, and medula in particular), key cranial nerves, and offer an intro to the role of the cerebellum, vagus nerve, and enteric nervous system in relation to interoception, emotion, decision making, and their relationships with physical wellbeing. We will explore how these systems affect our bodies’ experiences of stress, wellbeing, cognitive performance and, especially, creativity.

The goal for this course is that, from these two components, HCI researchers and designers will gainmany new pathways for designing to support quality of life for all, from individual to infrastructure.


A related takeway from Inbodied Interaction 102 is to see, from the material presented in both II 101 and 102, that the usual dividing line between mental and pyhsical wellbeing/performance is a false and largely. unhelfpul dichotomy for design.

Image result for sagittal view of brain mri
Related image
Where the Cerebellum, brain stem and insula areas are situated relative to the features of the head. –

Concepts to be introduced in II 102 include

areas of the limbic system – amazing how small relative to other areas of the cortex both the amygdala and hippocampus are – yet how critical for decision making, movement, learning. We are particularly interested in (1) the global role of the limbic system; the key roles for interaction of the thalamus, hypothalamus, amygdala, hypocampus – and time pending the anterior cingulate cortex.
  • interoception,
  • the limbic system (physical proximity to the insula and thus interoceptive processes)
  • the brain/gut axis;
  • the threat/pain neuromatrix
  • relation of insula, amygdala and supplementary motor area for decision making, emotional balance, stress response
  • cranial nerves and body parts: how vision, balance and proprioception interact and influence cognitive and emotional performance

Assessments you’ll learn related to these systems

Students learning how to assess and coach near/far target acquisition drills.
  • Coordinated bilateral movement challenges
  • Saccades and smoorth pursuits
  • balance and perturbation
  • vestibulo-occular reflex and cogntive function
  • coloured lensing and mobility
  • tongue movement as powerhouse for whole body integration
  • more, pending time/questions

Measures and Feedback – a new look

We will also look at how more familiar measures in HCI like HRV and EEG can be used in more novel ways when associated with midbrain/limbic/interoceptive work.

Course Prerequisites

Students who have attended Inbodied Interaction 101, or the Inbodied Interaction Summer School are welcome to register for this course.


This course will be offered at CHI2020, Hawaii.


Registered students for the course will be provided with guides, assessment materials and related readings references. Students will also be invited to a course Slack channel for ongoing community engagement.


Inbodied Interaction Summer School 2019 partipants / community

Our goal in this course is not only to help students access new knowledge to inform their health/wellbeing related HCI work, but to help build a community of researchers and research expertise around inbodied interaction. Participants in the course will become part of a new growing interdisciplinary HCI community seeking to help people build and own their own health and health cultures, to #makeNormalBetter 4all @scale.

Your instructors

This course is lead by m.c. schraefel, wellthlab, u of southampton, uk, with

Josh Andres, IBM Research, Australia and Aaron Tabor, UNB Canada


Please email questions to