Henry Evrard , Head of Research Group,
CIN Functional and Comparative Neuroanatomy, Werner Reichardt Center for Integrative Neuroscience, Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics
Abstract: Interoception substantiate embodied feelings and shape cognitive processes including perceptual awareness. My lab combines architectonics, tract-tracing, electrophysiology, direct electrical stimulation fMRI (DES-fMRI), neural event triggered fMRI (NET-fMRI) and optogenetics in the macaque monkey in order to examine the neuroanatomical and functional organization of the insular cortex, one of the key central interface of bodily and brain states. Our anatomical examination revealed that the insular cortex is anatomically organized according to a refined and high-consistent modular Bauplan where architectonics and hodology perfectly overlap. Hodological and functional examinations suggest that the insula contains a granular-to-dysgranular-to-agranular processing flow where interoceptive afferents are progressively integrated with self-agency and socially relevant activities from other parts of the brain, until reaching an ultimate representation of instantaneous physiological states in the anterior insula. The anterior insula contains distinct areas that have each specific projections. One of these areas specifically contains the atypical spindle-shaped von Economo neuron (VEN). A relatively high proportion of VEN projects to distant preautonomic midbrain regions. Recording and stimulation in the 'VEN area' confirmed the connection with these regions and highlighted prominent functional relations to high-order cortical areas, supporting the idea that the VEN area could serve as hub for the simultaneous interoceptive shaping of polymodal perceptual experience and high-order regulation of bodily states.
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