Recent studies in cognitive neuroscience have suggested that the integration of information about the internal bodily state and the external environment is crucial for the experience of emotion. Extensive overlap between the neural mechanisms underlying the subjective emotion and those involved in interoception (perception of that which is arising from inside the body) has been identified. However, the mechanisms of interaction between the neural substrates of interoception and emotional experience remain unclear. We examined the common and distinct features of the neural activity underlying evaluation of emotional and bodily state using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). The right anterior insular cortex and ventromedial prefrontal cortex (VMPFC) were identified as commonly activated areas. As both of these areas are considered critical for interoceptive awareness, these results suggest that attending to the bodily state underlies awareness of one's emotional state. Uniquely activated areas involved in the evaluation of emotional state included the temporal pole, posterior and anterior cingulate cortex, medial frontal gyrus, and inferior frontal gyrus. Also the precuneus was functionally associated with activity of the right anterior insular cortex and VMPFC when evaluating emotional state. Our findings indicate that activation in these areas and the precuneus are functionally associated for accessing interoceptive information and underpinning subjective experience of the emotional state. Thus, awareness of one's own emotional state appears to involve the integration of interoceptive information with an interpretation of the current situation. Hum Brain Mapp, 2013.
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