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Bolstering the findings, previous studies show schizophrenia is associated with poor prefrontal cortex functioning, and that strokes in that area can rob people of introspective ability, Fleming said.
But much more research is needed to address the which-came-first question: Are these brain differences innate? Or do they reflect this brain region getting stronger as people try to spend more time monitoring their own mental state, meaning it's an ability that might be improved with training?
Regardless, much brain research to date has focused on simpler questions, like how memory forms. The new findings help shed light on more sophisticated, higher-level abilities, said Columbia University psychology researcher Hakwan Lau, who wasn't involved in the research but analyzed it in an accompanying article in Science.
"Understanding how the brain works is important in its own right," said Lau.
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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