A discussion of the fascinating histories
behind the words used in human anatomy.
Insula, directly from insula, Latin for island; the brain's clandestine lobe, located deep to the lateral sulcus of the cerebrum. When exposed after removal of overlying portions of the frontal and parietal lobes, it looks like an island of cerebral cortex. It was named and first described by the German anatomist Johann Christian Reil in 1796 (he also coined the word psychiatry). The now rarely used alternative term the for the insula is the Island of Reil.
The left insula (highlighted in brown) Modified from http://www.biocfarm.unibo.it
It almost seems like the insula's location kept it hidden from researchers over the years: only now are some of its fascinating functions coming to light. One of its jobs is to link sensations to emotions; Consequently, pain promotes anger, a lover's kiss causes joy. It is also involved in recognizing the emotional content of music, be it a Mozart minuet or a Jimi Hendrix solo. When considering this last function in particular it is not surprising that the insula is one of the most recently evolved structures of the human brain.
Some other words derived from the Latin insula,all invoking an island in one sense or another: insular, insulate, isolate, peninsula (pene is Latin for almost), and insulin (because it is produced by cells in the pancreatic islets, aka the islets of Langerhans).
Word index All posts are by Dr. A. Carey Carpenter, Palomar College, San Marcos California, and are taken from a book he is writing on the etymology of anatomical words titled Tough Mother in a Turkish Saddle.