The insular cortex is the primary cortical site devoted to taste processing. A large body of evidence is available for how insular neurons respond to gustatory stimulation in both anesthetized and behaving animals. Most of the reports describe broadly tuned neurons that are involved in processing the chemosensory, physiological and psychological aspects of gustatory experience. However little is known about how these neural responses map onto insular circuits. Particularly mysterious is the functional role of the three subdivisions of the insular cortex: the granular, the dysgranular and the agranular insular cortices. In this article we review data on the organization of the local and long-distance circuits in the three subdivisions. The functional significance of these results is discussed in light of the latest electrophysiological data. A view of the insular cortex as a functionally integrated system devoted to processing gustatory, multimodal, cognitive and affective information is proposed.
Copyright © 2012 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.