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Domain-General and Domain-Specific Patterns of Activity Supporting Metacognition in Human Prefrontal Cortex

Morales, J; Lau, H; Fleming, SM; (2018) Domain-General and Domain-Specific Patterns of Activity Supporting Metacognition in Human Prefrontal Cortex. Journal of Neuroscience , 38 (14) pp. 3534-3546. 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2360-17.2018. Green open access

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Abstract

Metacognition is the capacity to evaluate the success of one's own cognitive processes in various domains, e.g. memory and perception. It remains controversial whether metacognition relies on a domain-general resource that is applied to different tasks, or whether self-evaluative processes are domain-specific. Here we directly investigated this issue by examining the neural substrates engaged when metacognitive judgments were made by human participants of both sexes during perceptual and memory tasks matched for stimulus and performance characteristics. By comparing patterns of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) activity while subjects evaluated their performance, we revealed both domain-specific and domain-general metacognitive representations. Multi-voxel activity patterns in anterior prefrontal cortex predicted levels of confidence in a domain-specific fashion, whereas domain-general signals predicting confidence and accuracy were found in a widespread network in the frontal and posterior midline. The demonstration of domain-specific metacognitive representations suggests the presence of a content-rich mechanism available to introspection and cognitive control. SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT: We use human neuroimaging to investigate processes supporting memory and perceptual metacognition. It remains controversial whether metacognition relies on a global resource that is applied to different tasks, or whether self-evaluative processes are specific to particular tasks. Using multivariate decoding methods, we provide evidence that perceptual- and memory-specific metacognitive representations cortex co-exist with generic confidence signals. Our findings reconcile previously conflicting results on the domain-specificity/generality of metacognition, and lay the groundwork for a mechanistic understanding of metacognitive judgments.

Type: Article
Title: Domain-General and Domain-Specific Patterns of Activity Supporting Metacognition in Human Prefrontal Cortex
Location: United States
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2360-17.2018
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2360-17.2018
Language: English
Additional information: Copyright © 2018 Morales et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution and reproduction in any medium provided that the original work is properly attributed.
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences > Experimental Psychology
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10045561
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