Accurate timing is an integral aspect of sensory and motor processes such as the perception of speech and music and the execution of skilled movement. Neuropsychological studies of time perception in patient groups and functional neuroimaging studies of timing in normal participants suggest common neural substrates for perceptual and motor timing. A timing system is implicated in core regions of the motor network such as the cerebellum, inferior olive, basal ganglia, pre-supplementary, and supplementary motor area, pre-motor cortex as well as higher-level areas such as the prefrontal cortex. In this article, we assess how distinct parts of the timing system subserve different aspects of perceptual timing. We previously established brain bases for absolute, duration-based timing and relative, beat-based timing in the olivocerebellar and striato-thalamo-cortical circuits respectively (Teki et al., 2011). However, neurophysiological and neuroanatomical studies provide a basis to suggest that timing functions of these circuits may not be independent. Here, we propose a unified model of time perception based on coordinated activity in the core striatal and olivocerebellar networks that are interconnected with each other and the cerebral cortex through multiple synaptic pathways. Timing in this unified model is proposed to involve serial beat-based striatal activation followed by absolute olivocerebellar timing mechanisms.
Keywords: cerebellum; interval timing; striatum; time perception; timing mechanisms.