Modality-independent role of the primary auditory cortex in time estimation

Exp Brain Res. 2011 Mar;209(3):465-71. doi: 10.1007/s00221-011-2577-3. Epub 2011 Feb 12.


It has been argued that both modality-specific and supramodal mechanisms dedicated to time perception underlie the estimation of interval durations. While it is generally assumed that early sensory areas are dedicated to modality-specific time estimation, we hypothesized that early sensory areas such as the primary visual cortex or the auditory cortex might be involved in time perception independently of the sensory modality of the input. To test this possibility, we examined whether disruption of the primary visual cortex or the auditory cortex would disrupt time estimation of auditory stimuli and visual stimuli using transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS). We found that disruption of the auditory cortex impaired not only time estimation of auditory stimuli but also impaired that of visual stimuli to the same degree. This finding suggests a supramodal role of the auditory cortex in time perception. On the other hand, TMS over the primary visual cortex impaired performance only in visual time discrimination. These asymmetric contributions of the auditory and visual cortices in time perception may be explained by a superiority of the auditory cortex in temporal processing. Here, we propose that time is primarily encoded in the auditory system and that visual inputs are automatically encoded into an auditory representation in time discrimination tasks.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation / methods
  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Auditory Cortex / physiology*
  • Discrimination, Psychological / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Photic Stimulation / methods
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Sensory Thresholds / physiology
  • Time Perception / physiology*
  • Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation / methods
  • Visual Cortex / physiology
  • Young Adult