Prefrontal cortex contributions to episodic retrieval monitoring and evaluation

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Colleges, School and Institutes


Although the prefrontal cortex (PFC) plays roles in episodic memory judgments, the specific processes it supports are not understood fully. Event-related potential (ERP) studies of episodic retrieval have revealed an electrophysiological modulation - the right-frontal ERP old/new effect - which is thought to reflect activity in PFC. The functional significance of this old/new effect remains a matter of debate, and this study was designed to test two accounts: (i) that the effect indexes processes linked to the monitoring or evaluation of the products of retrieval in service of task demands, or (ii) that it indexes the number of internal decisions required for a task judgment. Participants studied words in one of two colours. In a subsequent retrieval task, old (studied) and new words were presented in a neutral colour. Participants made initial old/new judgments, along with study colour judgments to words thought to be old. They also indicated their confidence (high/low) in the colour decision. Right-frontal ERP old/new effects were larger for high than for low confidence correct colour judgments, and the magnitude of the right-frontal effect was correlated with the proportions of low confidence judgments that were made. Because the numbers of decisions associated with these response categories are equivalent, these findings do not support a decision-based account of the right-frontal ERP old/new effect. Rather, the correlation between confidence and the magnitude of the effect links it with retrieval monitoring and evaluation processes.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2779-89
Number of pages11
Issue number13
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2009


  • Adolescent, Adult, Decision Making, Evoked Potentials, Female, Functional Laterality, Humans, Male, Mental Recall, Prefrontal Cortex, Psychomotor Performance