King's College London

Research portal

Anterior insula responds to temporally unpredictable aversiveness: an fMRI study

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Stewart A Shankman, Stephanie M Gorka, Brady D Nelson, Daniel A Fitzgerald, Luan Phan, Owen O'Daly

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)596-600
Number of pages5
Issue number8
Published28 May 2014

King's Authors


A heightened sensitivity to unpredictable aversiveness is a key component of several anxiety disorders. Neuroimaging studies of unpredictable aversiveness have shown that the anterior region of the insula cortex (AIC) plays a central role in the anticipation of unpredictable aversiveness. The present study extended these findings by examining the role of the AIC in temporal unpredictability (i.e. not knowing when the stimulus will occur), a particularly critical aspect of unpredictability as it increases contextual anxiety and vigilance, given that the danger could happen 'at any time'. Nineteen healthy participants underwent functional MRI while anticipating either temporally unpredictable or predictable aversive (or neutral) images. Participants showed greater right AIC activation while anticipating unpredictable relative to predictable aversive images. In addition, activation in this region was correlated positively with self-reported individual differences in a key facet of intolerance of uncertainty (inhibitory behavior). Taken together, the present study suggests that the AIC plays an important role in the anticipation of temporally unpredictable aversiveness and may mediate key deficits in anxiety disorders.

View graph of relations

© 2020 King's College London | Strand | London WC2R 2LS | England | United Kingdom | Tel +44 (0)20 7836 5454