Functional organization of the human anterior insular cortex

Neurosci Lett. 2009 Jun 26;457(2):66-70. doi: 10.1016/j.neulet.2009.03.101. Epub 2009 Apr 5.


The human insular cortex is involved in a wide range of functions including motor control, language, and homeostatic regulation. Little is known, however, how these functions are topographically organized in the insular cortex and how they are functionally related to the amygdala, which is anatomically connected to the insular cortex. We have investigated these questions by conducting an activation likelihood estimate (ALE) meta-analysis of previously published neuroimaging studies reporting insula effects. We find auditory and language tasks to preferentially activate an area in the dorsal part of the anterior insular cortex (AIC). Motor tasks involving both the upper and lower extremity reproducibly activated a posterior AIC region, adjacent to the sulcus centralis insulae (SCI). Significant co-activation with the probabilistically defined amygdala was located in the ventral AIC where also responses related to peripheral physiological changes were repeatedly reported. These findings show that the human AIC is a functionally differentiated brain region. The dorsal region of the AIC may be involved in auditory-motor integration, while the ventral part of the AIC may interface the amygdala with insular regions involved in the regulation of physiological changes related to emotional states. Thus, the present findings provide insights into the organization of human AIC and a methodological approach that may be further used to refine the emerging functional map of the insular cortex.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Brain Mapping
  • Cerebral Cortex / anatomy & histology*
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Neural Pathways / anatomy & histology
  • Neural Pathways / physiology