Measuring time with different neural chronometers during a synchronization-continuation task

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2011 Dec 6;108(49):19784-9. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1112933108. Epub 2011 Nov 21.


Temporal information processing is critical for many complex behaviors including speech and music cognition, yet its neural substrate remains elusive. We examined the neurophysiological properties of medial premotor cortex (MPC) of two Rhesus monkeys during the execution of a synchronization-continuation tapping task that includes the basic sensorimotor components of a variety of rhythmic behaviors. We show that time-keeping in the MPC is governed by separate cell populations. One group encoded the time remaining for an action, showing activity whose duration changed as a function of interval duration, reaching a peak at similar magnitudes and times with respect to the movement. The other cell group showed a response that increased in duration or magnitude as a function of the elapsed time from the last movement. Hence, the sensorimotor loops engaged during the task may depend on the cyclic interplay between different neuronal chronometers that quantify the time passed and the remaining time for an action.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Animals
  • Brain Mapping
  • Cues
  • Macaca mulatta / physiology*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Models, Neurological
  • Motor Cortex / anatomy & histology
  • Motor Cortex / cytology
  • Motor Cortex / physiology*
  • Movement / physiology
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Reward
  • Time Factors