Quantitative modeling of perception and production of time intervals

J Neurophysiol. 2001 Dec;86(6):2754-60. doi: 10.1152/jn.2001.86.6.2754.


The accurate perception/production of durations in the seconds and minutes range is important in a number of everyday activities, but the lack of direct experimental evidence on the neural circuits that could be involved has precluded the detailed elucidation of the underlying physiological mechanisms. We show, using a basic biophysical model of a timekeeping system and experimental data on time intervals produced or estimated under different conditions, that experimental values, variability, and distributions can be quantitatively explained in terms of a background synaptic activity such as that generated by attention. The model provides a plausible neural substrate for encoding time intervals, and the findings suggest how it may interplay at the single neuron level with the attentional system, to elaborate a subjective representation of the elapsing time.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Models, Neurological
  • Neural Conduction / physiology
  • Neural Networks, Computer
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Prospective Studies
  • Synapses / physiology
  • Time Perception / physiology*