The neurobiological basis of time estimation and temporal order

Rev Neurosci. 1999;10(2):151-73. doi: 10.1515/revneuro.1999.10.2.151.


Time estimation may be evaluated with the use of four major paradigms: temporal discrimination, verbal estimation, temporal production, and temporal reproduction. On the basis of testing of normal subjects and patients with brain lesions, it has been shown that the cerebellum, the basal ganglia, and the prefrontal cortex are involved in time estimation. In particular, studies in humans and animals have indicated that facilitation of dopamine transmission speeds up the internal clock, while inhibition of dopamine transmission slows it down. It has been hypothesized that the central timer is located in the cerebellum, while the planning abilities subserving the estimation of longer intervals are mediated by the prefrontal cortex. It remains to be determined whether time estimation is related to memory of temporal order or context and whether time-related tasks are correlated with working memory.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Time Perception / physiology*