Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience
Metamemory refers to knowledge and monitoring of one's own memory. Metamemory monitoring can be done prospectively with respect to subsequent memory retrieval or retrospectively with respect to previous memory retrieval. In this study, we used fMRI to compare neural activity during prospective feeling-of-knowing and retrospective confidence tasks in order to examine common and distinct mechanisms supporting multiple forms of metamemory monitoring. Both metamemory tasks, compared to non-metamemory tasks, were associated with greater activity in medial prefrontal, medial parietal, and lateral parietal regions, which have previously been implicated in internally directed cognition. Furthermore, compared to non-metamemory tasks, metamemory tasks were associated with less activity in occipital regions, and in lateral inferior frontal and dorsal medial prefrontal regions, which have previously shown involvement in visual processing and stimulus-oriented attention, respectively. Thus, neural activity related to metamemory is characterized by both a shift toward internally directed cognition and away from externally directed cognition. Several regions demonstrated differences in neural activity between feeling-of-knowing and confidence tasks, including fusiform, medial temporal lobe, and medial parietal regions; furthermore, these regions also showed interaction effects between task and the subjective metamemory rating, suggesting that they are sensitive to the information monitored in each particular task. These findings demonstrate both common and distinct neural mechanisms supporting metamemory processes and also serve to elucidate the functional roles of previously characterized brain networks.