Did I turn off the gas? Reality monitoring of everyday actions.


Failing to remember whether we performed, or merely imagined performing, an everyday action can occasionally be inconvenient, but in some circumstances it can have potentially dangerous consequences. In this fMRI study, we investigated the brain activity patterns, and objective and subjective behavioral measures, associated with recollecting such everyday actions. We used an ecologically valid "reality-monitoring" paradigm in which participants performed, or imagined performing, specified actions with real objects drawn from one of two boxes. Lateral brain areas, including prefrontal cortex, were active when participants recollected both the actions that had been associated with objects and the locations from which they had been drawn, consistent with a general role in source recollection. By contrast, medial prefrontal and motor regions made more specific contributions, with supplementary motor cortex activity being associated with recollection decisions about actions but not locations, and medial prefrontal cortex exhibiting greater activity when remembering performed rather than imagined actions. These results support a theoretical interpretation of reality monitoring that entails the fine-grained discrimination between multiple forms of internally and externally generated information.