Spatially localized distortions of event time

Curr Biol. 2006 Mar 7;16(5):472-9. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2006.01.032.


A fundamental question about the perception of time is whether the neural mechanisms underlying temporal judgements are universal and centralized in the brain or modality specific and distributed. Time perception has traditionally been thought to be entirely dissociated from spatial vision. Here we show that the apparent duration of a dynamic stimulus can be manipulated in a local region of visual space by adapting to oscillatory motion or flicker. This implicates spatially localized temporal mechanisms in duration perception. We do not see concomitant changes in the time of onset or offset of the test patterns, demonstrating a direct local effect on duration perception rather than an indirect effect on the time course of neural processing. The effects of adaptation on duration perception can also be dissociated from motion or flicker perception per se. Although 20 Hz adaptation reduces both the apparent temporal frequency and duration of a 10 Hz test stimulus, 5 Hz adaptation increases apparent temporal frequency but has little effect on duration perception. We conclude that there is a peripheral, spatially localized, essentially visual component involved in sensing the duration of visual events.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological
  • Biological Clocks / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Models, Biological
  • Motion Perception
  • Nerve Net / physiology*
  • Time Perception*
  • Visual Perception / physiology