Temperature sensation is regarded as a submodality of touch, but evidence suggests involvement of insular cortex rather than parietal somatosensory cortices. Using positron emission tomography (PET), we found contralateral activity correlated with graded cooling stimuli only in the dorsal margin of the middle/posterior insula in humans. This corresponds to the thermoreceptive- and nociceptive-specific lamina I spinothalamocortical pathway in monkeys, and can be considered an enteroceptive area within limbic sensory cortex. Because lesions at this site can produce the post-stroke central pain syndrome, this finding supports the proposal that central pain results from loss of the normal inhibition of pain by cold. Notably, perceived thermal intensity was well correlated with activation in the right (ipsilateral) anterior insular and orbitofrontal cortices.
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