An attention modulated response to disgust in human ventral anterior insula

Ann Neurol. 2003 Apr;53(4):446-53. doi: 10.1002/ana.10502.


The human brain is expert in analyzing rapidly and precisely facial features, especially emotional expressions representing a powerful communication vector. The involvement of insula in disgust recognition has been reported in behavioral and functional imaging studies. However, we do not know whether specific insular fields are involved in disgust processing nor what the processing time course is. Using depth electrodes implanted during presurgical evaluation of patients with drug-refractory temporal lobe epilepsy, we recorded intracerebral event-related potentials to human facial emotional expressions, that is, fear, disgust, happiness, surprise, and neutral expression. We studied evoked responses in 13 patients with insular contacts to specify the insular fields involved in disgust processing and assess the timing of their activation. We showed that specific potentials to disgust beginning 300 milliseconds after stimulus onset and lasting 200 milliseconds were evoked in the ventral anterior insula in four patients. The occurrence and latency of event-related potentials to disgust in the ventral anterior insula were affected by selective attention. The analysis of spatial and temporal characteristics of insular responses to disgust facial expression lead us to underline the crucial role of ventral anterior insula in the categorization of facial emotional expressions, particularly the disgust.

MeSH terms

  • Attention / physiology*
  • Electrodes, Implanted
  • Emotions / physiology*
  • Epilepsy, Temporal Lobe
  • Evoked Potentials, Visual / physiology
  • Facial Expression
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual / physiology
  • Temporal Lobe / physiology*
  • Visual Pathways / physiology