How do you feel--now? The anterior insula and human awareness.
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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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 · 3.71 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: Following destruction or denervation of the primary visual cortex (V1) cortical blindness ensues. Affective blindsight refers to the uncanny ability of such patients to respond correctly, or above chance level, to visual emotional expressions presented to their blind fields. Fifteen years after its original discovery, affective blindsight still fascinates neuroscientists and philosophers alike, as it offers a unique window on the vestigial properties of our visual system that, though present in the intact brain, tend to be unnoticed or even actively inhibited by conscious processes. Here we review available studies on affective blindsight with the intent to clarify its functional properties, neural bases and theoretical implications. Evidence converges on the role of subcortical structures of old evolutionary origin such as the superior colliculus, the pulvinar and the amygdala in mediating affective blindsight and nonconscious perception of emotions. We conclude that approaching consciousness, and its absence, from the vantage point of emotion processing may uncover important relations between the two phenomena, as consciousness may have evolved as an evolutionary specialization to interact with others and become aware of their social and emotional expressions. Copyright © 2015 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.Consciousness and Cognition 06/2015; DOI:10.1016/j.concog.2015.05.007 · 2.31 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: Social pain after exclusion by others activates brain regions also involved in physical pain. Here we evaluated whether monetary reward could compensate for the negative feeling of social pain in the brain. To address this question we used the unique technique of intracranial electroencephalography in subjects with drug resistant epilepsy. Specifically, we recorded theta activity from intracranial electrodes implanted in the insular cortex while subjects experienced conditions of social inclusion and exclusion associated with monetary gain and loss. Our study confirmed that theta rhythm in the insular cortex is the neural signature of social exclusion. We found that while a monetary gain suppresses the effect of social pain in the anterior insula, there is no such effect in the posterior insula. These results imply that the anterior insula can use secondary reward signals to compensate for the negative feeling of social pain. HENCE, HERE WE PROPOSE THAT THE ANTERIOR INSULA PLAYS A PIVOTAL ROLE IN INTEGRATING CONTINGENCIES TO UPDATE SOCIAL PAIN FEELINGS: Finally, the possibility to modulate the theta rhythm through the reward system might open new avenues of research for treating pathologies related to social exclusion. © The Author (2015). Published by Oxford University Press. For Permissions, please email: email@example.com.Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience 05/2015; DOI:10.1093/scan/nsv054 · 5.88 Impact Factor