Flicker-Induced Time Dilation Does Not Modulate EEG Correlates of Temporal Encoding

Brain Topogr. 2015 Jul;28(4):559-69. doi: 10.1007/s10548-014-0389-z. Epub 2014 Aug 13.


In this study, we used EEG to investigate how visual stimulus dynamics (i.e. flicker) affect the mechanisms of duration perception. Previous studies have demonstrated that flickering visual stimuli are judged longer than equally long non-flickering stimuli. We tested whether this effect of flicker on duration judgments is mediated by changes in temporal encoding during the time interval. Here, temporal encoding refers to the perception of the unfolding of time throughout the temporal interval, also termed the "clock stage" in information processing models of interval timing. We hypothesized that if flicker mediates duration perception by affecting temporal encoding, then the dilation-effect should be reflected by neural correlates of temporal encoding. We presented flickering and steady stimuli in a duration bisection task and found that flicker dilated perceived duration. The EEG analysis allowed us to isolate a putative neural correlate of temporal encoding: a modulation of the amplitude of the contingent negative variation (CNV) by stimuli classified as "long" compared to physically identical stimuli classified as "short". However, flicker did not affect the CNV amplitude, suggesting that flicker does not dilate perceived duration by affecting temporal encoding. Possibly, flicker might affect only later stages of temporal processing such as interval comparison or decision making.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Electroencephalography
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Photic Stimulation / methods
  • Psychometrics
  • Time Factors
  • Time Perception / physiology*
  • Visual Perception / physiology*
  • Young Adult