Emotional and Social Behaviors Elicited by Electrical Stimulation of the Insula in the Macaque Monkey

Curr Biol. 2011 Feb 8;21(3):195-9. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2010.12.042. Epub 2011 Jan 20.


Evidence from a large number of brain imaging studies has shown that, in humans, the insula, and especially its anterior part, is involved in emotions and emotion recognition. Typically, however, these studies revealed that, besides the insula, a variety of other cortical and subcortical areas are also active. Brain imaging studies are correlative in nature, and, as such, they cannot give indications about the necessary contribution of the different centers involved in emotions. In the present study, we aimed to define more clearly the role of the insula in emotional and social behavior of the monkey by stimulating it electrically. Using this technique, one may determine whether direct activation of the insula can produce specific emotional or social behaviors and exactly which parts of this structure are responsible for these behaviors. The results showed that two emotional behaviors, a basic one (disgust) and a social one (affiliative state), were easily elicited by electrical stimulation of specific parts of the insula. Both behaviors were characterized by specific motor and vegetative responses and by a dramatic change in the monkey's responsiveness to external stimuli.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal
  • Brain Mapping
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology*
  • Deep Brain Stimulation
  • Emotions*
  • Macaca / physiology*
  • Macaca / psychology
  • Male
  • Social Behavior*