Human memory systems contain self-monitoring mechanisms for evaluating their progress. People can change their learning strategy on the basis of confidence in their performance at that time. However, it has not been fully understood how the brain is engaged in reliable rating of confidence in past recognition memory performance. We measured the brain activity by fMRI while healthy subjects performed a visual short-term recognition memory test and then rated their confidence in their answers as high, middle, or low. As shown previously, their behavioral performance in the confidence rating widely varied; some showed a positive confidence-recognition correlation (i.e., "rate reliably") while others did not. Among brain regions showing greater activity during rating their confidence relative to during a control, non-metamemory task (discriminating brightness of words), only a posterior-dorsal part of the right frontopolar cortex exhibited higher activity as the confidence level better correlated with actual recognition memory performance. These results suggest that activation in the right frontopolar cortex is key to a reliable, retrospective rating of confidence in short-term recognition memory performance.
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