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