Neurological mechanism for perceiving time?

In summary, it appears that humans perceive the passage of time by perceiving the spacing of ticks on a second hand watch. This mechanism is apparently related to the secretion of melatonin by the pineal gland at night. However, the detailed neurological/biological mechanism by which humans perceive the passage of time is still largely unknown.
  • #1
strangerep
Science Advisor
3,761
2,198
Hi all,

I'm a first time poster in Biology, and I'm not sure if this question belongs in Biology or Medicine. (I normally hang out over in quantum physics.)

What is currently known about the detailed neurological/biological mechanism by which humans perceive the passage of time? Simple watches are designed such that we perceive the spacing of ticks of each second to be approximately equal. Presumably this is related to some continuous dynamical process in the brain? If so, is this mechanism well understood at present?
 
Biology news on Phys.org
  • #4
Circadian rhythms are found in many different organism such as plants. In fact, plants use light and photoperiods to tell time. When nights get longer/shorter they will flower accordingly. As for humans, melatonin is a hormone secreted by the pineal gland at night and is used to tell time essential to many biological functions.
 
  • #5
Thanks everyone for the various references. I see that this is a very complex subject, with distinctly different mechanisms for short and long time interval perception.

So much to learn, and only one lifetime... :-(
 
  • #6
ultradian rhythms - less than a day
circadian rhythms - daily
infradian rhythms - more than a day
 
  • #7
This time of year, various bugs are out and about. One of them, Armadillidiidae (pill bug/roly-poly/potato bug/..) curls up into a ball if you touch it, then after some amount of time, unrolls and continues on it's way. Does anyone know if someone has done any work to understand how that time interval is set? I can't imagine it's learned behavior, and I have a hard time thinking of a genetic basis.
 
  • #8
I enjoyed David Eagleman's work.

http://www.eaglemanlab.net/time/essay-brain-time
 
  • #9
SecularSanity said:
I enjoyed David Eagleman's work.
http://www.eaglemanlab.net/time/essay-brain-time
Interesting essay. Thanks for mentioning it.
 
  • #10
SecularSanity said:
I enjoyed David Eagleman's work.

http://www.eaglemanlab.net/time/essay-brain-time

I enjoyed reading this. I think I saw this guy on Colbert, probably pushing a book, but I also remember seeing video of the people being dropped while watching for the numbers. Or perhaps that's just a perception I have formed based upon sensory data arriving too fast that it got smeared into a memory.

Nope, it happened:
http://www.colbertnation.com/the-colbert-report-videos/392756/july-21-2011/david-eagleman
 
  • #11
A fantastic source :rolleyes:, in an episoide of House MD, there was a case of a patient that had "gaps" in their "experience".

As in, the patient sings a song with rythem, and at times the patient pauses and is unnoticed by the patient.

I would guess it's loosely based off something plausable.

Mini "black outs" or something.
 
  • #12
nitsuj said:
A fantastic source :rolleyes:, in an episoide of House MD, there was a case of a patient that had "gaps" in their "experience".

As in, the patient sings a song with rythem, and at times the patient pauses and is unnoticed by the patient.

I would guess it's loosely based off something plausable.

Mini "black outs" or something.
I didn't happen to catch this episode but what you're describing is Absence Seizures:

http://www.webmd.com/epilepsy/understanding-absence-seizure-basics

From the perspective of the person having the seizure time seems to have inexplicably jumped forward a few seconds: suddenly people are in different positions saying different things, etc, as if some frames had been cut out of a film.
 
  • #13
zoobyshoe said:
I didn't happen to catch this episode but what you're describing is Absence Seizures:

http://www.webmd.com/epilepsy/understanding-absence-seizure-basics

From the perspective of the person having the seizure time seems to have inexplicably jumped forward a few seconds: suddenly people are in different positions saying different things, etc, as if some frames had been cut out of a film.

Chase - "His EEG didn't show any sign of seizure activity."
House - "I didn't say it was a seizure, I said it was like a seizure!"
Oh that House, always so clever :smile:

It was S07E16, the diagnosis is at 28:00 minutes into the episode. One of the better episodes too, check it out.
 
  • #14
nitsuj said:
Chase - "His EEG didn't show any sign of seizure activity."
House - "I didn't say it was a seizure, I said it was like a seizure!"
Oh that House, always so clever :smile:

It was S07E16, the diagnosis is at 28:00 minutes into the episode. One of the better episodes too, check it out.

It looks like I'd have to download it to watch it. I'll eventually catch it on TV. I watch the old episodes when they air.
 

Related to Neurological mechanism for perceiving time?

1. What is the neurological mechanism responsible for perceiving time?

The neurological mechanism responsible for perceiving time is primarily located in the brain's frontal cortex. This region is responsible for processing information related to time, including temporal cues such as duration and intervals.

2. How does the brain measure time?

The brain measures time through a complex process involving neural networks and the synchronization of electrical signals. It also relies on the integration of sensory information, such as visual and auditory cues, to create a sense of time perception.

3. Are there specific neurons dedicated to time perception?

While there is no single neuron responsible for time perception, research has identified specific neural networks that are involved in this process. These networks involve various regions of the brain, including the prefrontal cortex and the parietal cortex.

4. Can the perception of time be altered or manipulated?

Yes, the perception of time can be altered or manipulated through various factors such as emotions, attention, and memory. For example, time can feel like it is passing more quickly when we are engaged in an enjoyable activity, while it can feel slower when we are bored or anxious.

5. How does the brain account for time distortions?

The brain has the ability to adjust its perception of time based on external and internal factors. For instance, it can account for time distortions caused by changes in the environment, such as traveling to a different time zone. It can also adjust for internal factors, such as changes in hormone levels or stress levels.

Similar threads

Replies
6
Views
7K
  • STEM Academic Advising
Replies
9
Views
1K
  • Biology and Medical
Replies
1
Views
918
  • Sci-Fi Writing and World Building
Replies
13
Views
1K
  • Quantum Physics
Replies
19
Views
2K
  • STEM Career Guidance
Replies
4
Views
2K
  • Quantum Interpretations and Foundations
3
Replies
76
Views
5K
  • Sci-Fi Writing and World Building
3
Replies
87
Views
5K
Replies
2
Views
2K
  • Biology and Medical
Replies
2
Views
2K
Back
Top