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At the heart of the ventral attention system: The right anterior insula

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Abstract

The anterior insula has been hypothesized to provide a link between attention-related problem solving and salience systems during the coordination and evaluation of task performance. Here, we test the hypothesis that the anterior insula/medial frontal operculum (aI/fO) provides linkage across systems supporting task demands and attention systems by examining the patterns of functional connectivity during word recognition and spatial attention functional imaging tasks. A shared set of frontal regions (right aI/fO, right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, bilateral anterior cingulate) were engaged, regardless of perceptual domain (auditory or visual) or mode of response (word production or button press). We present novel evidence that: (1) the right aI/fO is functionally connected with other frontal regions implicated in executive function and not just brain regions responsive to stimulus salience; and (2) that the aI/fO, but not the ACC, exhibits significantly correlated activity with other brain regions specifically engaged by tasks with varying perceptual and behavioral demands. These results support the hypothesis that the right aI/fO aids in the coordination and evaluation of task performance across behavioral tasks with varying perceptual and response demands. Hum Brain Mapp 2009. © 2008 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

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