Previous Project at MPIB

Each one of us can reflect upon and report the contents of our thoughts: we know what we see, what we hear, how we feel and how much we remember. This information is private to each one of us — only "I" have access to what "I" am thinking. This capacity to introspect is called metacognition.

Not everybody is equally good at metacognition. Some of us are better than others at recognizing our own mental states.

© MPI fuer Bildungsforschung

There is strong evidence to think that the prefrontal cortex is involved in metacognition, but the finer mechanisms remain largely unknown. In the Structural Plasticity Group, we are trying to understand these mechanisms by capitalizing on differences across individuals, and seeking relationships between individual brain structure and metacognitive ability. In particular, we ask whether metacognition should be understood as a general ability, or whether the mechanisms involved depend on the modality of the mental state. For example, are people who are good at knowing what they see also good at knowing how much they remember? We are comparing metacognitive abilities across several different domains, and relating them to brain structure and function, measured with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) methods.

Furthermore, we are interested in metacognition of our own body and facial expressions. We communicate a lot through our facial expressions, but we rarely see ourselves from the outside. We are using metacognitive measures to understand what we know — and don't know — about the way we look when we talk to others.

Principal Investigators

Elisa Filevich, Bernstein Center for Computational Neuroscience, Berlin (since 2016)
Simone Kühn, University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf (since 2016)

Collaboration Partners

Timothy Brick, Penn State University
Yana Fandakova
Philipp Sterzer, Charité


Faivre, N., Filevich, E., Solovey, G., Kühn, S., & Blanke, O. (2016). Behavioural, modeling, and electrophysiological evidence for domain-generality in human metacognition. BioRxiv. doi: 10.1101/095950

Filevich, E., Dresler, M., Brick, T. R., & Kühn, S. (2015). Metacognitive mechanisms underlying lucid dreaming. Journal of Neuroscience, 35, 1082–1088. doi: 10.1523/jneurosci. 3342-14.2015

Metamotor Lab

Further research on this topic is being carried out at Elisa Filevich's Metamotor Lab, Bernstein Center for Computational Neuroscience, Berlin. Her research group is funded by the "Freigeist" program of the Volkswagen Foundation.