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Monkey Metamemory

January 17, 2017

Neuroscientists investigate how humans ponder what we’ve learned by studying the brains of monkeys.

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):

Monkey self-reflection. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Philosophers like René Descartes have long pondered our ability to reflect upon what we already know and assess how much we still need to learn. Our “metamemory”, as it’s called, may have helped our ancestors hunt strategically, and today could help students prepare for exams, for example. But no one understood the brain structures underlying the phenomenon until now, according to University of Tokyo neuroscientist Yasushi Miyashita.

YASUSHI MIYASHITA (University of Tokyo):

Consciousness and self-reflection are the biggest mystery of our mind to be investigated.  

HIRSHON:

He says macaque monkeys also use metamemory, and his team scanned the brains of monkeys during metamemory tasks. They report in Science magazine that one area of the brain’s prefrontal cortex tackles long-term metamemories while another handles more recent events. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the science society.

Story by Susanne Bard