The insula (Island of Reil) and its role in auditory processing: Literature review

Doris Eva Bamiou, Frank E. Musiek, Linda M. Luxon

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

336 Scopus citations


The insular cortex is a complex structure which contains areas that subserve visceral sensory, motor, vestibular, and somatosensory functions. The role of the insular cortex in auditory processing was poorly understood until recently. However, recent case studies indicate that bilateral damage to the insulae may result in total auditory agnosia. Functional imaging studies demonstrate that the insulae participate in several key auditory processes, such as allocating auditory attention and tuning in to novel auditory stimuli, temporal processing, phonological processing and visual-auditory integration. These studies do not clarify the issue of further specialisation within the insular cortex, e.g. whether the posterior insulae are primarily sensory areas, while the anterior insulae serve mainly as integration/association auditory areas, two hypotheses that would be compatible with the cytoarchitectonic structure and connectivity of the insulae. The functional characterisation of the insulae remains incomplete, underlining the need for further studies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)143-154
Number of pages12
JournalBrain Research Reviews
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 2003
Externally publishedYes


  • Agnosia
  • Auditory processing
  • Insula
  • Phonological
  • Temporal
  • Visual-auditory integration

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • Clinical Neurology


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