The insula and cingulate cortices are implicated in emotional, homeostatic/allostatic, sensorimotor, and cognitive functions. Non-human primates have specific anatomical connections between sub-divisions of the insula and cingulate. Specifically, the anterior insula projects to the pregenual anterior cingulate cortex (pACC) and the anterior and posterior mid-cingulate cortex (aMCC and pMCC); the mid-posterior insula only projects to the posterior MCC (pMCC). In humans, functional neuroimaging studies implicate the anterior insula and pre/subgenual ACC in emotional processes, the mid-posterior insula with awareness and interoception, and the MCC with environmental monitoring, response selection, and skeletomotor body orientation. Here, we tested the hypothesis that distinct resting state functional connectivity could be identified between (1) the anterior insula and pACC/aMCC; and (2) the entire insula (anterior, middle, and posterior insula) and the pMCC. Functional connectivity was assessed from resting state fMRI scans in 19 healthy volunteers using seed regions of interest in the anterior, middle, and posterior insula. Highly correlated, low-frequency oscillations (< 0.05 Hz) were identified between specific insula and cingulate subdivisions. The anterior insula was shown to be functionally connected with the pACC/aMCC and the pMCC, while the mid/posterior insula was only connected with the pMCC. These data provide evidence for a resting state anterior insula-pACC/aMCC cingulate system that may integrate interoceptive information with emotional salience to form a subjective representation of the body; and another system that includes the entire insula and MCC, likely involved in environmental monitoring, response selection, and skeletomotor body orientation.
2008 Wiley-Liss, Inc.