The insula is a long-neglected brain region that is emerging as crucial to understanding what it feels like to be human. Neuroscientists describe it as he wellspring of social emotions like lust and disgust, pride and humiliation, guilt and atonement. It helps give rise to moral intuition, empathy and the capacity to respond emotionally to music.
What exactly is it that it does? The insula "lights up" in brain scans when people crave drugs, feel pain, anticipate pain, empathize with others, listen to jokes, see disgust on someone's face, are shunned in social settings, listen to music, decide not to buy an item, see someone cheat and decide to punish them, and determine degrees of preference while eating chocolate. Damage to the insula can lead to apathy, loss of libido and an inability to tell fresh food from rotten.
Mind and body are integrated in the insula. It provides unprecedented insight into the anatomy of human emotions.