The thalamo-cortical and cortico-cortical afferents of the cat's insular cortex were investigated with the retrograde horseradish peroxidase technique. The most prominent loci of thalamic labeling were the suprageniculate nucleus and parts of the posterolateral nucleus. Injections into the anterior part of the insular cortex also resulted in labeled cells in the ventromedial posterior nucleus and in the intralaminar nuclei, while injections into posterior parts revealed projections from the medial and dorsal parts of the medial geniculate nucleus. Only the anterior and most ventral parts of the insular cortex overlying the anterior rhinal sulcus were connected with the mediodorsal nucleus of the thalamus. All injections into the gyrus sylvius anterior showed a specific pattern of cortical afferents: With the exception of the labeling in the prefrontal cortex and the inferotemporal region, the labeled cells were very narrowly restricted to the presylvian, the suprasylvian, and the splenial sulcus.
The thalamic neurons projecting to the cortex were generally organized in a bandlike pattern which crossed nuclear borders. The majority of the cortico-cortical connections originated from sulcal areas next to the prefrontal, parietal, and cingulate cortex, that is, next to so-called association cortices.
In the light of the present results the role of the insular cortex as a multifunctional association area is discussed, as well as its relation to other cortical centers.