Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Brain's clock influenced by senses

Date:
January 20, 2011
Source:
University College London
Summary:
Humans use their senses to help keep track of short intervals of time according to new research, which suggests that our perception of time is not maintained by an internal body clock alone.

Humans use their senses to help keep track of short intervals of time according to new research, which suggests that our perception of time is not maintained by an internal body clock alone.

Scientists from UCL (University College London) set out to answer the question "Where does our sense of time come from?" Their results show that it comes partly from observing how much the world changes, as we have learnt to expect our sensory inputs to change at a particular 'average' rate. Comparing the change we see to this average value helps us judge how much time has passed, and refines our internal timekeeping.

Dr Maneesh Sahani, from the UCL Gatsby Computational Neuroscience Unit, and an author of the paper said: "There are many proposals for how an internal clock might work, but no one has found a single part of the brain that keeps track of time. It may be that there is no such place, that our perception of time is distributed across the brain and makes use of whatever information is available."

Published online in Current Biology January 20, the study includes two key experiments. In one experiment 20 participants watched small circles of light appear on a screen twice in a row, and were asked to say which appearance lasted longer. When the circles were accompanied by a mottled pattern programmed to change randomly, but with a regular average rate, participants' judgments were better -- suggesting that they used the rate of change in the patterns to judge the passing of time.

In another experiment the authors asked participants to judge how long the mottled patterns themselves lasted, but varied the rates at which those patterns changed. When the patterns changed faster, participants judged them to have lasted longer -- again showing that sensory change shapes our sense of time.

"Our sense of time is affected by outside stimuli, and is therefore highly mutable, which is something that resonates with people's feeling about the passing of time," said Dr Sahani.

"It is possible to bias people's perception of time, which does not fit with the idea of a rigid internal brain clock. The answer to why this happens is that part of our perception of time is based on changing sensory input from the outside world, which we can use to improve our judgements of time in an environment where rate of change is likely to be reliable," added Dr. Misha Ahrens, the first author of the study and a UCL graduate student when the study was conducted.

The research was funded by the Gatsby Foundation and the Wellcome Trust.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University College London. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Misha B. Ahrens and Maneesh Sahani. Observers exploit stochastic models of sensory change to help judge the passage of time. Current Biology, January 20, 2011 DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2010.12.043

Cite This Page:

University College London. "Brain's clock influenced by senses." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 20 January 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/01/110120124955.htm>.
University College London. (2011, January 20). Brain's clock influenced by senses. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 2, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/01/110120124955.htm
University College London. "Brain's clock influenced by senses." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/01/110120124955.htm (accessed October 2, 2014).

Share This



More Mind & Brain News

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Pregnancy Spacing Could Have Big Impact On Autism Risks

Pregnancy Spacing Could Have Big Impact On Autism Risks

Newsy (Oct. 1, 2014) A new study says children born less than one year and more than five years after a sibling can have an increased risk for autism. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Stopping School Violence

Stopping School Violence

Ivanhoe (Oct. 1, 2014) A trauma doctor steps out of the hospital and into the classroom to teach kids how to calmly solve conflicts, avoiding a trip to the ER. Video provided by Ivanhoe
Powered by NewsLook.com
Pineal Cysts: Debilitating Pain

Pineal Cysts: Debilitating Pain

Ivanhoe (Oct. 1, 2014) A tiny cyst in the brain that can cause debilitating symptoms like chronic headaches and insomnia, and the doctor who performs the delicate surgery to remove them. Video provided by Ivanhoe
Powered by NewsLook.com
Burning Away Brain Tumors

Burning Away Brain Tumors

Ivanhoe (Oct. 1, 2014) Doctors are 'cooking' brain tumors. Hear how this new laser-heat procedure cuts down on recovery time. Video provided by Ivanhoe
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins