Beyond the tripartite cognition-emotion-interoception model of the human insular cortex
Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience
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Functional MRI studies report insular activations across a wide range of tasks involving affective, sensory, and motor processing, but also during tasks of high-level perception, attention, and control. Although insular cortical activations are often reported in the literature, the diverse functional roles of this region are still not well understood. We used a meta-analytic approach to analyze the coactivation profiles of insular subdivisions-dorsal anterior, ventral anterior, and posterior insula-across fMRI studies in terms of multiple task domains including emotion, memory, attention, and reasoning. We found extensive coactivation of each insular subdivision, with substantial overlap between coactivation partners for each subdivision. Functional fingerprint analyses revealed that all subdivisions cooperated with a functionally diverse set of regions. Graph-theoretical analyses revealed that the dorsal anterior insula was a highly "central" structure in the coactivation network. Furthermore, analysis of the studies that activate the insular cortex itself showed that the right dorsal anterior insula was a particularly "diverse" structure in that it was likely to be active across multiple task domains. These results highlight the nuanced functional profiles of insular subdivisions and are consistent with recent work suggesting that the dorsal anterior insula can be considered a critical functional hub in the human brain.