Causal evidence for mnemonic metacognition in human precuneus

Journal Article

Metacognition is the capacity to introspectively monitor and control one’s own cognitive processes. Previous anatomical and functional neuroimaging findings implicated the important role of precuneus in metacognition processing, especially during mnemonic tasks. However, the issue of whether this medial parietal cortex is a domain-specific region that supports mnemonic metacognition remains controversial. Here, we focally disrupted this parietal area with repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation in healthy participants of both sexes, seeking to ascertain its functional necessity for metacognition for memory versus perceptual decisions. Perturbing the precuneal activity impaired the metacognitive efficiency selectively in the memory judgment of temporal-order, but not in perceptual discrimination. Moreover, the correlation in individuals’ metacognitive efficiency between the domains disappeared when the precuneus was perturbed. Together with the previous finding that lesion to the anterior prefrontal cortex impairs perceptual but not mnemonic metacognition, we double dissociated the macro-anatomical underpinnings for the two kinds of metacognitive capacity in an interconnected network of brain regions.


Theories on the neural basis of metacognition have thus far largely centered on the role of prefrontal cortex. Here we refined the theoretical framework through characterizing a unique precuneal involvement in mnemonic metacognition with a noninvasive but inferentially powerful method: transcranial magnetic stimulation. By quantifying meta-cognitive efficiency across two distinct domains (memory vs. perception) that are matched for stimulus characteristics, we reveal an instrumental – and highly selective – role of the precuneus in mnemonic metacognition. These causal evidence corroborate ample clinical reports that parietal lobe lesions often produce inaccurate self-reports of confidence in memory recollection and establish that the precuneus as a nexus for the introspective ability to evaluate the success of memory judgment in humans.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Ye, Q; Zou, F; Lau, H; Hu, Y; Kwok, SC

Published Date

  • 2018

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1101/280750