One of the most mysterious regions of the human brain is the insular cortex, buried in the depth of the lateral fissure, which separates the frontal and parietal lobes from the temporal lobe. For a long while, the insular cortex received little attention from neuroscience research.
Recently this has dramatically changed: an increasing number of recent studies address the functional role of the insular lobe. A number of reports have connected the insula to important high-level cognitive functions such as error detection, including social norm violation, general task monitoring, language processing, self-awareness and even consciousness. Furthermore, the insula might play a crucial role in neuropsychiatric disorders, such as drug addiction (see for instance the recent New York Times article ‘A small part of the brain and its profound effects’).
Other studies have proposed more basic functions that might be supported by the insular cortex, including basic auditory processing, experiencing pain, the senses of smell and taste, and simple motor functions.