The journal Nature Reviews Neuroscience features an opinion article authored by Lucina Q. Uddin, assistant professor of Psychology in the University of Miami College of Arts and Sciences.
Uddin’s article “Salience Processing and Insular Cortical Function and Dysfunction” reviews recent findings about the neuroscience of how the brain selects certain things out of the environment that are "salient" for an individual. The findings show that dysfunction of salience processing systems in the brain is linked to disorders such as autism, psychosis, and dementia.
“The take home message of the article is that a complex and multi-purpose brain structure called the insula seems to be very critical for responding to salient stimuli.” Uddin said. “When this brain region is not functioning properly, one can see striking effects on different aspects of several prevalent brain disorders,” Uddin said.
The article highlights that the insular cortex is not homogenous, it can be separated into different subdivisions. The function of one of these subdivisions, in particular, is important for orchestrating activity in other brain regions that are involved in guiding attention.
“The next step will be to carefully characterize insula dysfunction as it relates to major brain disorders,” Uddin said.
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Lucina Q. Uddin. Salience processing and insular cortical function and dysfunction. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, Published Online November 19 2014. doi: 10.1038/nrn3857