Crying with depressed affect induced by electrical stimulation of the anterior insula: A stereo EEG case study

Tarun D. Singh, David S. Sabsevitz, Nimit N. Desai, Erik H. Middlebrooks, Anteneh M. Feyissa, Sanjeet Grewal, Robert E. Wharen, William O. Tatum, Anthony L. Ritaccio

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Stereo-EEG (sEEG) is an invasive recording technique used to localize the seizure-onset zone for epilepsy surgery in people with drug-resistant focal seizures. Pathological crying reflects disordered emotional expression and the anterior insula is known to play a role in empathy and socio-emotional processing. We describe a patient where electrical stimulation mapping (ESM) of the anterior insula during sEEG generated pathological crying and profound sadness that was time-locked to the electrical stimulus. We evaluated a 35-year-old left-handed female for repeat epilepsy surgery. The patient had drug resistant focal impaired awareness seizures despite a previous left temporal neocortical resection informed by an invasive study using subdural grid and strip electrodes seven years earlier. She was studied invasively with 10 sEEG electrodes sampling temporal, occipital, and insular targets. In the process of functional mapping, stimulation of the anterior insular cortex provoked tearful crying with sad affect, reproducible upon repeat stimulation. Our case is unique in demonstrating transitory pathological crying with profound sadness provoked by ESM of the left anterior insula. Furthermore we demonstrate repeated time-synched crying from electrical stimulation, which supports the hypothesis that the anterior insula in the brain plays an important role in the biology of emotion, as implicated by previous studies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number100421
JournalEpilepsy and Behavior Reports
StatePublished - Jan 2021


  • Anterior insula
  • Crying
  • Insular stimulation
  • sEEG

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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