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Relating Introspective Accuracy to Individual Differences in Brain Structure

Science  17 Sep 2010:
Vol. 329, Issue 5998, pp. 1541-1543
DOI: 10.1126/science.1191883

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Abstract

The ability to introspect about self-performance is key to human subjective experience, but the neuroanatomical basis of this ability is unknown. Such accurate introspection requires discriminating correct decisions from incorrect ones, a capacity that varies substantially across individuals. We dissociated variation in introspective ability from objective performance in a simple perceptual-decision task, allowing us to determine whether this interindividual variability was associated with a distinct neural basis. We show that introspective ability is correlated with gray matter volume in the anterior prefrontal cortex, a region that shows marked evolutionary development in humans. Moreover, interindividual variation in introspective ability is also correlated with white-matter microstructure connected with this area of the prefrontal cortex. Our findings point to a focal neuroanatomical substrate for introspective ability, a substrate distinct from that supporting primary perception.

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