Population clocks: motor timing with neural dynamics

Trends Cogn Sci. 2010 Dec;14(12):520-7. doi: 10.1016/j.tics.2010.09.002.


An understanding of sensory and motor processing will require elucidation of the mechanisms by which the brain tells time. Open questions relate to whether timing relies on dedicated or intrinsic mechanisms and whether distinct mechanisms underlie timing across scales and modalities. Although experimental and theoretical studies support the notion that neural circuits are intrinsically capable of sensory timing on short scales, few general models of motor timing have been proposed. For one class of models, population clocks, it is proposed that time is encoded in the time-varying patterns of activity of a population of neurons. We argue that population clocks emerge from the internal dynamics of recurrently connected networks, are biologically realistic and account for many aspects of motor timing.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Biological Clocks / physiology*
  • Brain / cytology*
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Models, Neurological*
  • Motor Activity / physiology
  • Neural Pathways / physiology
  • Nonlinear Dynamics*
  • Time Perception / physiology*