Although a prefrontal involvement in the memory domain is well-documented, the specific functions the frontal lobes have in episodic memory are still unclear. This study aimed to disentangle theoretical accounts of prefrontal involvement concerning objective characteristics of the retrieval (i.e., accuracy) and accounts based on subjective features (i.e., confidence). Event-related potentials (ERPs) were recorded during the test phase of a source memory task in two experiments. The task was to retrieve the word and the voice of the speaker at study (experiment 1) or the voice of the speaker together with confidence ratings about the source judgment (experiment 2). ERPs in both experiments were not modulated by the success of the voice retrieval, discarding accounts linked to the retrieval success. A right-more-than-left late prefrontal positivity was found in both experiments. Moreover, in experiment 2, waves were more positive for low- than for high-confidence responses. This pattern was observed earlier over lateral parietal scalp regions and later, and more sustained in time, over anterior prefrontal regions. The dissociable effects found within the prefrontal scalp regions, specifically along the anterior-posterior and right-left dimensions, are interpreted as markers of qualitatively different monitoring processes.
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