Link to the University of Pittsburgh Homepage
Link to the University Library System Homepage Link to the Contact Us Form

Neuronal correlates of metacognition in primate frontal cortex

Middlebrooks, Paul G (2011) Neuronal correlates of metacognition in primate frontal cortex. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

Primary Text

Download (1MB) | Preview


We spend a large portion of life as the object of our own thoughts. Daily we reflect on all sorts of recent and not so recent decisions, and the products of those reflective thoughts serve to guide future goals, actions, and thoughts. The process of "thinking about thinking", or metacognition, has garnered scrutiny in psychology studies for decades and recently in some imaging and neurological studies, but its neuronal basis remains unknown. Moreover, metacognition is largely thought a uniquely human ability, and only very recently has some evidence suggested other species may harbor metacognitive skills. To begin investigating neuronal mechanisms underlying metacognition, we performed two experiments.First, we tested whether rhesus macaques exhibited evidence for metacognition. We trained monkeys to perform a visual oculomotor metacognition task. In each trial, monkeys made a decision then made a bet. To earn maximum reward, monkeys had to monitor their decision and then make a bet to indicate whether the decision was correct or incorrect. We found the monkeys' behavior was best explained by a metacognitive strategy, and we ruled out possible alternative strategies to perform the task such as reliance on visual stimuli or saccadic reaction times.Second, we tested whether neurons exhibited activity correlated with metacognition. While monkeys performed the task we recorded from single neurons in three frontal cortical areas known to play roles in higher cognitive functions: the frontal eye field, lateral prefrontal cortex, and the supplementary eye field. Our predictions were that frontal eye field neuronal activity would correlate with making the decisions but not the bets, and that lateral prefrontal cortex and supplementary eye field neuronal activity would correlate with linking the decisions to the bets - the putative metacognitive signals. We found signals in all three brain areas correlated with making decisions and correlated with making bets. The supplementary eye field was the only area of the three that exhibited strong signals correlated with metacognitive monitoring, and these signals appeared early and were sustained throughout the task. Our results identify the supplementary eye field as a likely contributor to metacognitive monitoring.


Social Networking:
Share |


Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Middlebrooks, Paul Gpgm7@pitt.eduPGM7
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairBatista, Aaronapb10@pitt.eduAPB10
Committee MemberLuna, Beatrizlunab@upmc.eduLUNA
Committee MemberColby,
Committee MemberFiez, Juliefiez@pitt.eduFIEZ
Committee MemberSommer, Marcmasommer@pitt.eduMASOMMER
Committee MemberEverling,
Date: 29 September 2011
Date Type: Completion
Defense Date: 18 May 2011
Approval Date: 29 September 2011
Submission Date: 26 May 2011
Access Restriction: 5 year -- Restrict access to University of Pittsburgh for a period of 5 years.
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Neuroscience
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: cognition; decision-making; eye movements; metacognition; metamemory; single neurons; visual
Other ID:, etd-05262011-104522
Date Deposited: 10 Nov 2011 19:45
Last Modified: 19 Dec 2016 14:36


Monthly Views for the past 3 years

Plum Analytics

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item