Neuroscience Bulletin

, Volume 32, Issue 2, pp 191–201 | Cite as

Insular Cortex is Critical for the Perception, Modulation, and Chronification of Pain

  • Changbo Lu
  • Tao Yang
  • Huan Zhao
  • Ming Zhang
  • Fancheng Meng
  • Hao Fu
  • Yingli Xie
  • Hui XuEmail author


An increasing body of neuroimaging and electrophysiological studies of the brain suggest that the insular cortex (IC) integrates multimodal salient information ranging from sensation to cognitive-affective events to create conscious interoception. Especially with regard to pain experience, the IC has been supposed to participate in both sensory-discriminative and affective-motivational aspects of pain. In this review, we discuss the latest data proposing that subregions of the IC are involved in isolated pain networks: the posterior sensory circuit and the anterior emotional network. Due to abundant connections with other brain areas, the IC is likely to serve as an interface where cross-modal shaping of pain occurs. In chronic pain, however, this mode of emotional awareness and the modulation of pain are disrupted. We highlight some of the molecular mechanisms underlying the changes of the pain modulation system that contribute to the transition from acute to chronic pain in the IC.


Insular cortex Pain Emotion Neural network Dopamine GABA Molecular mechanism 



This review was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (31371120) and the Foundation for Returned Overseas Students of Ministry of Education, China (HG3503).


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Copyright information

© Shanghai Institutes for Biological Sciences, CAS and Springer Science+Business Media Singapore 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Changbo Lu
    • 1
  • Tao Yang
    • 1
  • Huan Zhao
    • 1
  • Ming Zhang
    • 1
  • Fancheng Meng
    • 1
  • Hao Fu
    • 1
  • Yingli Xie
    • 1
  • Hui Xu
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Neurobiology and Collaborative Innovation Center for Brain Science, School of Basic MedicineFourth Military Medical UniversityXi’anChina

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