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Interoceptive and multimodal functions of the operculo-insular cortex: Tactile, nociceptive and vestibular representations

Neuroimage. 2013 Jun 22. pii: S1053-8119(13)00694-0. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2013.06.057. [Epub ahead of print]

Authors/Editors: Zu Eulenburg P, Baumgärtner U, Treede RD, Dieterich M.
Publication Date: 2013

 zu eulenburg

Abstract

The operculo-insular cortex has been termed the 'homeostatic control center' or 'general magnitude estimator' of the human mind. In this study, somatosensory, nociceptive and caloric vestibular stimuli were applied to reveal, whether there are mainly common, or possibly specific regions activated by one modality alone and whether lateralization effects, time pattern differences or influences of the aversive nature of the stimuli could be observed. Activation of the dorsal posterior insula was caused by all stimuli alike thus terming this area multimodal. Early phases of the noxious heat and caloric vestibular stimulation led to responses in the anterior insula. Using conjunction analyses we found that left- and right-sided tactile stimulation, but not nociceptive stimulation, caused a joint activation of the cytoarchitectonic area OP1 and nociceptive but not tactile stimulation of the anterior insula bilaterally. Tactile activation in the parietal operculum (SII, OP1) was distinct from nociceptive activation (OP3 and frontal operculum). The joint activation by all three stimuli located in the dorsal posterior insula argues for the presence of multisensory structures. The distinct activation of the anterior insula by aversive stimuli and the posterior insula by multisensory signals supports the concept of a partitioned insular cortex recently introduced based on connectivity studies and meta-analyses.

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