How Do You Feel—Now? The Anterior Insula and Human Awareness

Atkinson Research Laboratory, Barrow Neurological Institute, Phoenix, Arizona 85013, USA.
Nature Reviews Neuroscience (Impact Factor: 31.43). 02/2009; 10(1):59-70. DOI: 10.1038/nrn2555
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT The anterior insular cortex (AIC) is implicated in a wide range of conditions and behaviours, from bowel distension and orgasm, to cigarette craving and maternal love, to decision making and sudden insight. Its function in the re-representation of interoception offers one possible basis for its involvement in all subjective feelings. New findings suggest a fundamental role for the AIC (and the von Economo neurons it contains) in awareness, and thus it needs to be considered as a potential neural correlate of consciousness.

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    • "Whether this specific depression-related bias in interpreting sad and happy facial expressions is due to dysfunctions in sensory regions, regions involved in interpretation of facial expressions and/or cognitive control remains unclear. As previously mentioned the insular cortex is a brain area involved in the interpretation of facial information and it ahs been highlighted as an integrative hub between the sensory, interpretive and cognitive regions involved in emotional processing (Avery et al., 2013; Manoliu et al., 2013; Sprengelmeyer et al., 2011), Craig and others (Craig, 2009, 2011) (Chang et al., 2013; Menon and Uddin, 2010) have suggested that the insular cortex utilizes sensory information from ascending homeostatic afferents together with contextual input from other cortical brain areas to form a conscious " feeling " or an emotional moment in time (Craig, 2011). The posterior part receives information about the physiological state of the body, which is the integrated with information from higher order sensory cortices, as well as from the amygdala and the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) in the middle and anterior part of the insular cortex where emotional awareness, self-recognition and other functions are represented (Craig, 2010; Nieuwenhuys, 2012). "
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    ABSTRACT: Background: Major depressive disorder (MDD) is a leading cause of disability worldwide and occurs commonly first during adolescence. The insular cortex (IC) plays an important role in integrating emotion processing with interoception and has been implicated recently in the pathophysiology of adult and adolescent MDD. However, no studies have yet specifically examined the IC in adolescent MDD during processing of faces in the sad- happy continuum. Thus, the aim of the present study is to investigate the IC during sad and happy face processing in adolescents with MDD compared to healthy controls (HCL). Methods: Thirty-one adolescents (22 female) with MDD and 36 (23 female) HCL underwent a well- validated emotional processing fMRI paradigm that included sad and happy face stimuli. Results: The MDD group showed significantly less differential activation of the anterior/middle insular cortex (AMIC) in response to sad versus happy faces compared to the HCL group. AMIC also showed greater functional connectivity with right fusiform gyrus, left middle frontal gyrus, and right amygdala/parahippocampal gyrus in the MDD compared to HCL group. Moreover, differential activation to sad and happy faces in AMIC correlated negatively with depression severity within the MDD group. Limitations: Small age-range and cross-sectional nature precluded assessment of development of the AMIC in adolescent depression. Conclusions: Given the role of the IC in integrating bodily stimuli with conscious cognitive and emotional processes, our findings of aberrant AMIC function in adolescent MDD provide a neuroscientific rationale for targeting the AMIC in the development of new treatment modalities.
    Journal of Affective Disorders 01/2016; 178. DOI:10.1016/j.jad.2015.03.012 · 3.38 Impact Factor
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    • "From the perspective of sensory input channels, the insula contains primary gustatory, primary auditory, as well as associative somato-and viscerosensory cortices. On a functional scale, along the caudo-rostral insula, primary interoceptive representation gradually shifts over environmental input representation into highly abstract cognitive representations of self and time (Craig, 2009). These observations exemplify that an identical ROI may be segmented along diverging features and notions of brain organization. "
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    ABSTRACT: Regional specialization and functional integration are often viewed as two fundamental principles of human brain organization. They are closely intertwined because each functionally specialized brain region is probably characterized by a distinct set of long-range connections. This notion has prompted the quickly developing family of connectivity-based parcellation (CBP) methods in neuroimaging research. CBP assumes that there is a latent structure of parcels in a region of interest (ROI). First, connectivity strengths are computed to other parts of the brain for each voxel/vertex within the ROI. These features are then used to identify functionally distinct groups of ROI voxels/vertices. CBP enjoys increasing popularity for the in-vivo mapping of regional specialization in the human brain. Due to the requirements of different applications and datasets, CBP has diverged into a heterogeneous family of methods. This broad overview critically discusses the current state as well as the commonalities and idiosyncrasies of the main CBP methods. We target frequent concerns faced by novices and veterans to provide a reference for the investigation and review of CBP studies.
    Human Brain Mapping 01/2016; · 5.97 Impact Factor
    • "As outlined above, this region is consistently found in response to both self-generated (e.g., Marco-Pallarés et al., 2008; Ullsperger & von Cramon, 2001, 2004) and observed (e.g., De Bruijn et al., 2009; Koban et al., 2013; Yu et al., 2014) errors. In line with its role in interoceptive awareness (Craig, 2009; Critchley et al., 2004; Ullsperger et al., 2010), it has been suggested that the role of the AI is to signal the affective consequences of intentional actions (Brass & Haggard, 2010). Interestingly, evidence linking the AI to the simulation of vicarious emotions (Wicker et al., 2003) and vicarious pain (Lamm et al., 2011; Singer et al., 2004) suggests that it may not only evaluate the consequences of an action for oneself, but also for others (Koban et al., 2013; Koban & Pourtois, 2014). "
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    ABSTRACT: Research on error observation has focused predominantly on situations in which individuals are passive observers of errors. In daily life, however, we are often jointly responsible for the mistakes of others. In the current study, we examined how information on agency is integrated in the error observation network. It was found that activation in the anterior insula but not in the posterior medial frontal cortex or lateral prefrontal cortex differentiates between observed errors for which we are partly responsible or not. Interestingly, the activation pattern of the AI was mirrored by feelings of guilt and shame. These results suggest that the anterior insula is crucially involved in evaluating the consequences of our actions for other persons. Consequently, this region may be thought of as critical in guiding social behavior.
    Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience 09/2015; DOI:10.1093/scan/nsv120 · 7.37 Impact Factor
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