Brain and time: how changes in brain activity affect time perception

The eternal mystery of time and its perception remains one of the most interesting topics for scientists and philosophers. How can we explain the phenomenon of time seeming either instantaneous or infinitely long, depending on events? Recent research by scientists from Oxford University and University College London, as well as the Champalimaud Foundation in Portugal, sheds light on this enigma.

According to the new research, a certain part of the brain called the corpus striatum plays a key role in time perception. Scientists conducted experiments on rats to find out how changing activity in this area of the brain affects the animals’ ability to estimate time.

Using implants, the researchers cooled or heated the rats’ brains to change the activity of the corpus striatum. Under anesthesia, they found that increasing the temperature sped up striatum activity, while decreasing it slowed it down. When the rats were conscious, these changes in activity were reflected in their perception of time.

A warmer and faster striatum meant that time flowed more slowly, and a cooler and slower striatum meant that time passed more quickly. However, these changes did not affect the speed at which the rats moved, only the speed at which they decided to start moving. This indicates that time perception and movement speed are controlled by different parts of the brain.

The striatum determines when to make a movement, and another area of the brain, possibly the cerebellum, is responsible for the speed of movement. The researchers note that more research will be needed to better understand this mechanism.

Earlier fMRI data suggested that the basal ganglia are also involved in time perception in humans, but further research is needed to find out exactly how this happens.

The importance of understanding the mechanisms of time perception is that it has a direct impact on our movement and perception of the world around us. For example, in Parkinson’s disease, when the sense of time is impaired, movement and the ability to adapt to the environment are affected.

Scientists continue to explore this topic and ask themselves: what brain circuits are responsible for the ripples of activity and altered perception of time? What other computations are performed by these ripples? How do they help us adapt and respond intelligently to our environment?

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