Brain waves from an “isolated” cortex: contribution of the anterior insula to cognitive functions

Rinaldo Livio Perri, Marika Berchicci, Valentina Bianco, Donatella Spinelli, Francesco Di Russo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Using two independent electrical neuroimaging techniques (BESA and sLORETA), we tested a fMRI-seeded source modeling indicating that in visual discriminative tasks the anterior insula (aIns) participates in the generation of three prefrontal ERP components: the pN1 (at 115 ms), the pP1 (at 170 ms), and the pP2 (at 300 ms). This latter component represented the focus of the present study. Results showed that the pP2 had different activation profiles across hemispheres. The left aIns activity peaked at 420 ms (30 ms before the response) for both Go and No-go trials, that is independently from the ultimate choice (response or inhibition). The right aIns activity started at about 250 ms and progressively increased for a time interval extending after the motor response; its amplitude was larger in case of Go than No-go stimuli. We suggest that the activation of the left aIns reflected the timing of the decision, and the right aIns the categorization and the performance monitoring processes. A control experiment requiring simple (not discriminative) motor response revealed that the pP2 and the aIns activity were nearly absent after the 250 ms; this result confirmed that the aIns activity at this stage is associated with the decisional processes, and not with the motor response per se. The present investigation shed new lights on the insular contribution to perceptual decision-making, and opens to the possibility of assessing the aIns activity via ERP analysis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
JournalBrain Structure and Function
Publication statusAccepted/In press - Nov 9 2017


  • Anterior insula
  • BESA
  • Decision-making
  • ERP

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Histology


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