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PLoS One. 2020 Feb 13;15(2):e0228404. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0228404. eCollection 2020.

Emotion-body connection dispositions modify the insulae-midcingulate effective connectivity during anger processing.

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Department of Psychiatry, Liaison Psychiatry, University Hospitals of Geneva, Geneva, Switzerland.
Department of Psychiatry, Faculty of Medicine, University of Geneva, Geneva, Switzerland.
Department of Psychiatry, University Hospitals of Geneva, Geneva, Switzerland.
Institute of Post-Rationalist Psychology IPRA, Rome, Italy.
Department of Basic Medical Sciences, Neuroscience and Sense Organs, University of Bari, Bari, Italy.
Department of Education, Psychology, Communication, University of Bari, Bari, Italy.


The link between anger and bodily states is readily apparent based on the autonomic and behavioral responses elicited. In everyday life angry people react in different ways, from being agitated with an increased heart rate to remaining silent or detached. Neuroimaging evidence supports the role of mid-posterior insula and midcingulate cortex/MCC as key nodes of a sensorimotor network that predominantly responds to salient stimuli, integration of interoceptive and autonomic information, as well as to awareness of bodily movements for coordinated motion. However, there is still a lack of clarity concerning how interindividual variability in bodily states reactions drives the connectivity within these key nodes in the sensorimotor network during anger processing. Therefore, we investigated whether individual differences in body-centered emotional experience, that is an active (inward prone) or inactive (outward prone) emotion-body connection disposition, would differently affect the information flow within these brain regions. Two groups of participants underwent fMRI scanning session watching video clips of actors performing simple actions with angry and joyful facial expressions. The whole-brain group-by-session interaction analysis showed that the bilateral insula and the right MCC were selectively activated by inward group during the angry session, whereas the outward group activated more the precuneus during the joyful session. Accordingly, dynamic causal modeling analyses (DCM) revealed an excitatory modulatory effect exerted by anger all over the insulae-MCC connectivity in the inward group, whereas in the outward group the modulatory effect exerted was inhibitory. Modeling the variability related to individual differences in body-centered emotional experience allowed to better explain to what extent subjective dispositions contributed to the insular activity and its connectivity. In addition, from the perspective of a hierarchical model of neurovisceral integration, these findings add knowledge to the multiple ways which the insula and MCC dynamically integrate affective and bodily aspects of the human experience.

Conflict of interest statement

The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

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