GABA Receptors and Emotions: Building a Model of the Insular Cortex – Part 12


In this post we will look at the original open model of the Insular Cortex and its role in emotional regulation. In part 11 there is a summary of the posts in this series which look at the relationship between the Insular Cortex and emotional regulation. The diagram above illustrates the main themes in the series to date. We looked at the development of an open model which is contributed to by readers producing a collective ownership in keeping with the principles of the open science movement. The original model is shown below

Model of Anterior Insular Cortex Function
Model of Anterior Insular Cortex Function

In the original post we looked at a number of studies as well as some assumptions about the strength of evidence for each of these assumptions. For the sake of simplicity I will leave out the detailed examination of the strength of evidence which we can always return to at a later point.

The model above is relatively straightforward. The Anterior Insular Cortex is proposed as the brain area where sensory information results in emotional output. The GABA receptors or more specifically the GABAa receptors are involved in this transformation of sensory information into emotions. The GABA receptor density acts a bit like a ‘volume button’. Increasing the receptor density decreases the intensity of the emotions and conversely decreasing receptor density increases the intensity of the emotional experience. The Benzodiazepines influence the GABAa receptor and are a well known class of pharmacological agents which are known to modify emotions such as anxiety. At this superficial level of examination therefore the model has an ecological validity which fits with clinical acumen.

The second component of the model is the integration of sensory information. This was based on an interview with scientist Lawrence Williams who looked at how temperature influenced perception of relationships. This component of the model runs much deeper though. Looking at the top diagram we can see many models of emotions. The relationship between sensation and emotions is a key feature of the Cannon-Bard and James-Lange theories. Additionally work by Craig has developed this much further. These other models may also have influenced the above indirectly as these theories will have permeated neuroscience. An important part of the work in developing this model will be clarifying the relationship with these other models and distinguishing this model of emotions from those involving other brain regions.

Related Resources on this Site

Developing a Model of the Insular Cortex and Emotional Regulation: Part 1

Building a Model of the Insular Cortex – Part 2: Reviewing a Model by Craig – Part 1

Building a Model of the Insular Cortex – Part 3: Reviewing a Model by Craig – Part 2

Building a Model of the Insular Cortex – Part 4: Reviewing a Model by Craig – Part 3

Building a Model of the Insular Cortex – Part 5: The Evolution of the Insular Cortex

Building a Model of the Insular Cortex – Part 6: A Recap

Building a Model of the Insular Cortex – Part 7: The James-Lange Theory

Building a Model of the Insular Cortex – Part 8: The Cannon-Bard Thalamic Theory of Emotions

Building a Model of the Insular Cortex – Part 9: Charles Darwin on the Expression of the Emotions

Building a Model of the Insular Cortex – Part 10: The Limbic System

Building a Model of the Insular Cortex – Part 11: A Second Recap

What does the Insular Cortex Do Again?

Insular Cortex Infarction in Acute Middle Cerebral Artery Territory Stroke

The Insular Cortex and Neuropsychiatric Disorders

The Relationship of Blood Pressure to Subcortical Lesions

Pathobiology of Visceral Pain

Interoception and the Insular Cortex

A Case of Neurogenic T-Wave Inversion

Video Presentations on a Model of the Insular Cortex

MR Visualisations of the Insula

The Subjective Experience of Pain

How Do You Feel? Interoception: The Sense of the Physiological Condition of the Body

How Do You Feel – Now? The Anterior Insula and Human Awareness

Role of the Insular Cortex in the Modulation of Pain

The Insular Cortex and Frontotemporal Dementia

A Case of Infarct Connecting the Insular Cortex and the Heart

The Insular Cortex: Part of the Brain that Connects Smell and Taste?

Stuttered Swallowing and the Insular Cortex

YouTubing the Insular Cortex (Brodmann Areas 13, 14 and 52)

New Version of Video on Insular Cortex Uploaded

Contributors to the Model (links are to the posts in which contributions were made – these links may contain further links directly to the contributors)

Ann Nonimous

The Neurocritic


Index: There are indices for the TAWOP site here and here Twitter: You can follow ‘The Amazing World of Psychiatry’ Twitter by clicking on this link. Podcast: You can listen to this post on Odiogo by clicking on this link (there may be a small delay between publishing of the blog article and the availability of the podcast). It is available for a limited period. TAWOP Channel: You can follow the TAWOP Channel on YouTube by clicking on this link. Responses: If you have any comments, you can leave them below or alternatively e-mail Disclaimer: The comments made here represent the opinions of the author and do not represent the profession or any body/organisation. The comments made here are not meant as a source of medical advice and those seeking medical advice are advised to consult with their own doctor. The author is not responsible for the contents of any external sites that are linked to in this blog.


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