John Libbey Eurotext

Revue de neuropsychologie


Insula: neuropsychology of the fifth lobe of the brain Volume 9, issue 3, Juillet-Août-Septembre 2017


  • Figure 1
1 Université de Montréal,
Pavillon Marie-Victorin,
Département de psychologie,
CP 6128, succursale centre-ville,
QC, H3C 3J7,
2 Centre de recherche du centre hospitalier de l’Université de Montréal (CHUM),
Montréal, Canada
3 Université de Montréal,
Département de neurosciences,
Montréal, Canada
4 Université du Québec à Montréal,
Département de psychologie,
Montréal, Canada
* Correspondance
  • Key words: insula, neuropsychology, emotion, cognition, psychopathology
  • DOI : 10.1684/nrp.2017.0422
  • Page(s) : 154-61
  • Published in: 2017

The insula, considered as the fifth lobe of the human brain, is one of the least understood cerebral areas and its role in neuropsychological functioning remains enigmatic for many. In recent years, electrocortical stimulation, lesion, and neuroimaging studies in humans have shed light on several functions of this brain region. However, these functions are often addressed separately. This review article aims to summarize the current knowledge about the functions of the insula in humans. After a brief description of the anatomy and connectivity of the insula, we review its role in three main domains of neuropsychological function: (1) sensorimotor processing (viscerosensory and visceromotor function, interoception, somatosensory processing, and chemosensation); (2) emotion processing (emotional experience, empathy, and risky decision-making); and (3) cognitive functions (salience processing and speech). Broad anatomofunctional subdivisions within the insular lobe itself are presented. Finally, the potential involvement of the insula to psychopathology, especially anxiety, schizophrenia, autism, and addiction, are discussed. The insula's contribution to these many functions and pathologies may largely be attributable to its role in the subjective representation of body states. This manuscript provides clinical neuropsychologists and researchers a global and exhaustive portrait of the insula's role in neuropsychological functioning.