Role of the anterior insula in task-level control and focal attentionReport as inadecuate

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Brain Structure and Function

, Volume 214, Issue 5–6, pp 669–680

First Online: 29 May 2010Received: 08 January 2010Accepted: 21 April 2010


In humans, the anterior insula aI has been the topic of considerable research and ascribed a vast number of functional properties by way of neuroimaging and lesion studies. Here, we argue that the aI, at least in part, plays a role in domain-general attentional control and highlight studies Dosenbach et al. 2006; Dosenbach et al. 2007 supporting this view. Additionally, we discuss a study Ploran et al. 2007 that implicates aI in processes related to the capture of focal attention. Task-level control and focal attention may or may not reflect information processing supported by a single functional area within the aI. Therefore, we apply a novel technique Cohen et al. 2008 that utilizes resting state functional connectivity MRI rs-fcMRI to determine whether separable regions exist within the aI. rs-fcMRI mapping suggests that the ventral portion of the aI is distinguishable from more dorsal-anterior regions, which are themselves distinct from more posterior parts of the aI. When these regions are applied to functional MRI fMRI data, the ventral and dorsal-anterior regions support processes potentially related to both task-level control and focal attention, whereas the more posterior aI regions did not. These findings suggest that there exists some functional heterogeneity within aI that may subserve related but distinct types of higher-order cognitive processing.

KeywordsInsula Control Focal attention Functional connectivity fMRI fcMRI Electronic supplementary materialThe online version of this article doi:10.1007-s00429-010-0260-2 contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.

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Author: Steven M. Nelson - Nico U. F. Dosenbach - Alexander L. Cohen - Mark E. Wheeler - Bradley L. Schlaggar - Steven E. Pet


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