Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Times jumps on insula story

We noted a few weeks ago stories about the prune-sized part of the brain called the insula, whose mysteries could hold the key to unlock addictive behavior, including the nasty cigarette habit that kills so many people.

The NY Times has now weighed in on the insula.

The insula also reads body states like hunger and craving and helps push people into reaching for the next sandwich, cigarette or line of cocaine. So insula research offers new ways to think about treating drug addiction, alcoholism, anxiety and eating disorders....

...If it does everything, what exactly is it that it does?

For example, 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 a 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.

The bottom line, according to Dr. Paulus and others, is that mind and body are integrated in the insula. It provides unprecedented insight into the anatomy of human emotions.

Here's an idea ... instead of our government spending a lot of money to go back to the moon, how 'bout we put that money into figuruing out the insula?

Here's the rest of the NYT story.

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