Research Light Shines on Hidden Brain Lobe

PHOENIX, July 8 (UPI) — A scientist at the Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix says he wants to shed light on a lobe of the brain long hidden from researchers’ view.

A.D. Craig, who began studying the often-ignored insula more than 20 years ago, organized and edited a special edition of the journal Brain Structure and Function that is dedicated to emerging medical and scientific interest in the insula, the institute that is part of St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center said Wednesday in a release.

The insula is a prune-sized area deep within the brain that wasn’t studied much because scientists could not probe the area with surface electrodes, he said. The advent of sophisticated brain imaging techniques such as functional magnetic resonance imaging opened the region to a range of studies.

“Rapidly accumulating evidence indicates that this area of the brain is uniquely involved in virtually every human emotion and behavior,” Craig said. “Similarly, clinical evidence indicates that it is crucially involved in a variety of syndromes, including addiction, anxiety, depression, anosognosia, schizophrenia and frontotemporal dementia.”

Craig said the overall goal of the special Brain Structure and Function issue on the insula is to provide a starting point for investigators by identifying issues and opportunities for advances in the knowledge of this portion of the human brain.

“The insula is finally emerging from its hiding place inside the human brain,” Craig said. “Its central importance to all human feelings and behaviors makes it an extraordinarily important target for potential treatments of many mental dysfunctions, using drugs or sophisticated biofeedback methods.”

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