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

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          Abstract

          Metacognition is the capacity to evaluate the success of one's own cognitive processes in various domains; for example, memory and perception. It remains controversial whether metacognition relies on a domain-general resource that is applied to different tasks or if self-evaluative processes are domain specific. Here, we investigated this issue directly 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 fMRI activity while subjects evaluated their performance, we revealed both domain-specific and domain-general metacognitive representations. Multivoxel 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 used 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 if self-evaluative processes are specific to particular tasks. Using multivariate decoding methods, we provide evidence that perceptual- and memory-specific metacognitive representations coexist 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.

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          Most cited references 45

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          The role of the medial frontal cortex in cognitive control.

          Adaptive goal-directed behavior involves monitoring of ongoing actions and performance outcomes, and subsequent adjustments of behavior and learning. We evaluate new findings in cognitive neuroscience concerning cortical interactions that subserve the recruitment and implementation of such cognitive control. A review of primate and human studies, along with a meta-analysis of the human functional neuroimaging literature, suggest that the detection of unfavorable outcomes, response errors, response conflict, and decision uncertainty elicits largely overlapping clusters of activation foci in an extensive part of the posterior medial frontal cortex (pMFC). A direct link is delineated between activity in this area and subsequent adjustments in performance. Emerging evidence points to functional interactions between the pMFC and the lateral prefrontal cortex (LPFC), so that monitoring-related pMFC activity serves as a signal that engages regulatory processes in the LPFC to implement performance adjustments.
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            Multi-task connectivity reveals flexible hubs for adaptive task control

            Extensive evidence suggests the human ability to adaptively implement a wide variety of tasks is preferentially due to the operation of a fronto-parietal brain network. We hypothesized that this network’s adaptability is made possible by ‘flexible hubs’ – brain regions that rapidly update their pattern of global functional connectivity according to task demands. We utilized recent advances in characterizing brain network organization and dynamics to identify mechanisms consistent with the flexible hub theory. We found that the fronto-parietal network’s brain-wide functional connectivity pattern shifted more than other networks’ across a variety of task states, and that these connectivity patterns could be used to identify the current task. Further, these patterns were consistent across practiced and novel tasks, suggesting reuse of flexible hub connectivity patterns facilitates adaptive (novel) task performance. Together, these findings support a central role for fronto-parietal flexible hubs in cognitive control and adaptive implementation of task demands generally.
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              A neural system for error-detection and compensation.

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                Author and article information

                Journal
                J Neurosci
                J. Neurosci
                jneuro
                jneurosci
                J. Neurosci
                The Journal of Neuroscience
                Society for Neuroscience
                0270-6474
                1529-2401
                4 April 2018
                4 April 2018
                : 38
                : 14
                : 3534-3546
                Affiliations
                1Department of Philosophy, Columbia University, New York, New York 10027,
                2Department of Psychology, University of California, Los Angeles, California 90095,
                3Brain Research Institute, University of California, Los Angeles, California 90095,
                4Department of Psychology, University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong,
                5Wellcome Centre for Human Neuroimaging, University College London, London, United Kingdom WC1N 3BG, and
                6Max Planck Centre for Computational Psychiatry and Ageing Research, University College London, London, United Kingdom WC1B 5EH
                Author notes
                Correspondence should be addressed to Jorge Morales, Department of Philosophy, Columbia University, 708 Philosophy Hall, 1150 Amsterdam Ave., New York, NY 10027. jorge.morales@ 123456columbia.edu

                Author contributions: J.M. and S.M.F. wrote the first draft of the paper; J.M., H.L., and S.M.F. edited the paper; J.M., H.L., and S.M.F. designed research; J.M. and S.M.F. performed research; J.M., H.L., and S.M.F. contributed unpublished reagents/analytic tools; J.M., H.L., and S.M.F. analyzed data; J.M., H.L., and S.M.F. wrote the paper.

                Article
                2360-17
                10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2360-17.2018
                5895040
                29519851
                Copyright © 2018 Morales et al.

                This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International, which permits unrestricted use, distribution and reproduction in any medium provided that the original work is properly attributed.

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                Categories
                Research Articles
                Behavioral/Cognitive

                perception, confidence, fmri, memory, metacognition, mvpa

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