The estimation of duration can be affected by context and surprise. Using MagnetoEncephaloGraphy (MEG), we tested whether increased neural activity during surprise and following neural suppression in two different contexts supported subjective time dilation (Eagleman and Pariyadath, 2009; Pariyadath and Eagleman, 2012). Sequences of three 300 ms frequency-modulated (FM, control) or pure tones (test) were presented and followed by a fourth FM varying in duration. In test, the last FM was perceived as significantly longer than veridical duration (Tse et al., 2004) but did not differ from the perceived duration in control. Several novel and distinct neural signatures were observed in duration estimation: first, neural suppression of standard stimuli was observed for the onset but not for the offset auditory evoked responses. Second, ramping activity increased with veridical duration in control whereas at the same latency in test, the amplitude of the midlatency response increased with the distance of deviant durations. Third, in both conditions, the amplitude of the offset auditory evoked responses accounted well for participants' performance: the longer the perceived duration, the larger the offset response. Fourth, neural duration demarcated by the peak latencies of the onset and ramping evoked activities indexed a systematic time compression that reliably predicted subjective time perception. Our findings suggest that interval timing undergoes time compression by capitalizing on the predicted offset of an auditory event.
Keywords: Interval timing; MMN; Midlatency response; Predictive coding; Ramping activity.
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