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J Neurosci. 2012 May 2;32(18):6117-25. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.6489-11.2012.

Prefrontal contributions to metacognition in perceptual decision making.

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Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging, University College London, London WC1N 3BG, UK.


Neuroscience has made considerable progress in understanding the neural substrates supporting cognitive performance in a number of domains, including memory, perception, and decision making. In contrast, how the human brain generates metacognitive awareness of task performance remains unclear. Here, we address this question by asking participants to perform perceptual decisions while providing concurrent metacognitive reports during fMRI scanning. We show that activity in right rostrolateral prefrontal cortex (rlPFC) satisfies three constraints for a role in metacognitive aspects of decision-making. Right rlPFC showed greater activity during self-report compared to a matched control condition, activity in this region correlated with reported confidence, and the strength of the relationship between activity and confidence predicted metacognitive ability across individuals. In addition, functional connectivity between right rlPFC and both contralateral PFC and visual cortex increased during metacognitive reports. We discuss these findings in a theoretical framework where rlPFC re-represents object-level decision uncertainty to facilitate metacognitive report.

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