I’ve posted a lot about the importance of metacognition, and how I try to help students recognize its importance and apply it.

The Wellcome Trust in the United Kingdom just published a report on a very interesting study on metacognition — Metacognition – I know (or don’t know) that I know.

It’s apparently one of the few studies done on the topic with MRI’s. They were able to identify metacognition with a small part of the brain. Here’s the most interesting part of the report:

The findings, published in ‘Science’ in September 2010, linked the complex high-level process of metacognition to a small part of the brain. The study was the first to show that physical brain differences between people are linked to their level of self-awareness or metacognition.

Intriguingly, the anterior prefrontal cortex is also one of the few parts of the brain with anatomical properties that are unique to humans and fundamentally different from our closest relatives, the great apes. It seems introspection might be unique to humans.

“At this stage, we don’t know whether this area develops as we get better at reflecting on our thoughts, or whether people are better at introspection if their prefrontal cortex is more developed in the first place,” says Steve.

Boy, if scientists find that practicing metacognition physically alters the brain, that sure would be a great addition to my brain lessons (see The Best Resources For Showing Students That They Make Their Brain Stronger By Learning).

The study referenced in the report took place in 2010. I’ve contacting Dr. Fleming to see if he has developed any further conclusions since that time.