I've been interested in the insular cortex for a long time now, thanks to Deric Bownd's Mindblog having introduced me to this brain part, and also the posts over there about Sandra Blakeslee's book, The Body has a Mind of its Own, about brain maps. Sandra Blakeslee follows the research of A.D.Craig, who studies the insula from the perspective of its relationship to ascending nociception. Awareness of what's going on on the inside of one's physicality and of oneself (whatever self is), is called interoception. The brain is continuously interocepting, and one can merely tune in if one wants. In my work, I teach people to become aware of their physicality, while mostly leaving it up to them to hook their new ability to perceive their physicality up to them"selves."
Deric Bownds has a new post, How do you feel - now? The anterior insula and human awareness, which describes a new Craig paper by the same name. The paper is in Nature Neuroscience Reviews. It's full of interesting ideas; like the hub of a bicycle wheel, spokes go everywhere from this paper. I haven't yet even begun to digest it, but might blog more about various spokes later.
Meanwhile, I found an old article, Flesh made Soul, by Sandra Blakeslee, on interoception and spirituality, which I found very interesting on re-read. (Here is a link to her articles page. You have to find Flesh made Soul, about fourth down the list at this time.) She talks about interoception and wonders if it has anything to do with spiritual feelings. She is an atheist, which I find reassuring.
I have been wallowing in my own insular cortices (one on each side and they do different things) for many weeks, and will continue to wallow into the indistinct future. Posts might be sparse for a little while as I sort through the prospect of pulling up an entire life that I had thought was finally settled, and moving on to a sunnier place. I will be back, but not right away, probably.