Regulation of action selection based on metacognition in humans via a ventral and dorsal medial prefrontal cortical network

Cortex. 2019 Oct;119:336-349. doi: 10.1016/j.cortex.2019.05.001. Epub 2019 May 16.


Metacognition is defined as cognition about one's own cognitive state; it enables us to estimate our own performance during goal-directed actions and to select a suitable strategy based on that estimation. Identifying the neural mechanisms that underlie this process will contribute to our understanding of how we realize adaptive self-control in daily life. Here, we focused on the neural substrates that allow us to voluntarily utilize prospective metacognition to carry out such action selection. Participants were asked to bet on their recall of sound stimuli presented at an earlier time in a delayed match-to-sample task of rapidly changing sound stimuli. During the task, brain activity was measured using functional magnetic resonance imaging. We found that the brain network composed of the ventral and dorsal parts of the medial prefrontal cortex and the medial precuneus regulated the strategic selection of risk/return profiles based on metacognition. In particular, increments in functional connectivity between the ventral and dorsal medial prefrontal cortices during high-risk/return bets correlated with the adaptiveness of the bet (as measured by the correspondence between choosing high risk/return bets and high accuracy of task performance). This index is considered to reflect the degree of voluntary use of metacognition to bet. These findings suggest that the strong connectivity within the network involving the ventral and dorsal medial prefrontal cortices enables us to utilize metacognition to select actions for achieving a goal efficiently.

Keywords: Betting; Functional MRI; Medial prefrontal network; Memory confidence; Metacognition.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping / methods
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Male
  • Mental Recall / physiology*
  • Metacognition / physiology*
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiology
  • Young Adult