Functional coherence of insula networks is associated with externalizing behavior

Samantha V. Abram, Krista M. Wisner, Rachael G. Grazioplene, Robert Krueger, Angus MacDonald, Colin G DeYoung

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


The externalizing spectrum encompasses a range of maladaptive behaviors, including substance-use problems, impulsivity, and aggression. Although previous literature has linked externalizing behaviors with prefrontal and amygdala abnormalities, recent studies suggest insula functionality is implicated. This study investigated the relation between insula functional coherence and externalizing in a large community sample (N = 244). Participants underwent a resting functional MRI scan. Three nonartifactual intrinsic connectivity networks (ICNs) substantially involving the insula were identified after completing independent components analysis. Three externalizing domains-general disinhibition, substance abuse, and callous aggression-were measured with the Externalizing Spectrum Inventory. Regression models tested whether within-network coherence for the 3 insula ICNs was related to each externalizing domain. Posterior insula coherence was positively associated with general disinhibition and substance abuse. Anterior insula/ventral striatum/anterior cingulate network coherence was negatively associated with general disinhibition. Insula coherence did not relate to the callous aggression domain. Follow-up analyses indicated specificity for insula ICNs in their relation to general disinhibition and substance abuse as compared with other frontal and limbic ICNs. This study found insula network coherence was significantly associated with externalizing behaviors in community participants. Frontal and limbic ICNs containing less insular cortex were not related to externalizing. Thus, the neural synchrony of insula networks may be central for understanding externalizing psychopathology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1079-1091
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of abnormal psychology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 1 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 American Psychological Association.


  • Disinhibition
  • Externalizing
  • Functional connectivity
  • Insula
  • Substance use


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