A shared neural network for emotional expression and perception: An anatomical study in the macaque monkey

Ahmad Jezzini, Stefano Rozzi, Elena Borra, Vittorio Gallese, Fausto Caruana, Marzio Gerbella

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34 Scopus citations


Over the past two decades, the insula has been described as the sensory “interoceptive cortex”. As a consequence, human brain imaging studies have focused on its role in the sensory perception of emotions. However, evidence from neurophysiological studies in non-human primates have shown that the insula is also involved in generating emotional and communicative facial expressions. In particular, a recent study demonstrated that electrical stimulation of the mid-ventral sector of the insula evoked affiliative facial expressions. The present study aimed to describe the cortical connections of this “affiliative field”. To this aim, we identified the region with electrical stimulation and injected neural tracers to label incoming and outgoing projections. Our results show that the insular field underlying emotional expression is part of a network involving specific frontal, cingulate, temporal, and parietal areas, as well as the amygdala, the basal ganglia, and thalamus, indicating that this sector of the insula is a site of integration of motor, emotional, sensory and social information. Together with our previous functional studies, this result challenges the classic view of the insula as a multisensory area merely reflecting bodily and internal visceral states. In contrast, it supports an alternative perspective; that the emotional responses classically attributed to the insular cortex are endowed with an enactive component intrinsic to each social and emotional behavior.

Original languageEnglish
Article number243
JournalFrontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience
Issue numberSeptember
StatePublished - Sep 8 2015


  • Affiliative field
  • Emotion expression
  • Emotion perception
  • Insula
  • Interoception
  • Lip-smacking


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