Metacognition in monkeys during an oculomotor task.

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This study investigated whether rhesus monkeys show evidence of metacognition in a reduced, visual oculomotor task that is particularly suitable for use in fMRI and electrophysiology. The 2-stage task involved punctate visual stimulation and saccadic eye movement responses. In each trial, monkeys made a decision and then made a bet. To earn maximum reward, they had to monitor their decision and use that information to bet advantageously. Two monkeys learned to base their bets on their decisions within a few weeks. We implemented an operational definition of metacognitive behavior that relied on trial-by-trial analyses and signal detection theory. Both monkeys exhibited metacognition according to these quantitative criteria. Neither external visual cues nor potential reaction time cues explained the betting behavior; the animals seemed to rely exclusively on internal traces of their decisions. We documented the learning process of one monkey. During a 10-session transition phase, betting switched from random to a decision-based strategy. The results reinforce previous findings of metacognitive ability in monkeys and may facilitate the neurophysiological investigation of metacognitive functions.





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Middlebrooks, Paul G, and Marc A Sommer (2011). Metacognition in monkeys during an oculomotor task. J Exp Psychol Learn Mem Cogn, 37(2). pp. 325–337. 10.1037/a0021611 Retrieved from

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Marc A. Sommer

Professor of Biomedical Engineering

We study circuits for cognition. Using a combination of neurophysiology and biomedical engineering, we focus on the interaction between brain areas during visual perception, decision-making, and motor planning. Specific projects include the role of frontal cortex in metacognition, the role of cerebellar-frontal circuits in action timing, the neural basis of "good enough" decision-making (satisficing), and the neural mechanisms of transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS).

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