Working memory for time intervals in auditory rhythmic sequences

Front Psychol. 2014 Nov 19;5:1329. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2014.01329. eCollection 2014.


The brain can hold information about multiple objects in working memory. It is not known, however, whether intervals of time can be stored in memory as distinct items. Here, we developed a novel paradigm to examine temporal memory where listeners were required to reproduce the duration of a single probed interval from a sequence of intervals. We demonstrate that memory performance significantly varies as a function of temporal structure (better memory in regular vs. irregular sequences), interval size (better memory for sub- vs. supra-second intervals), and memory load (poor memory for higher load). In contrast memory performance is invariant to attentional cueing. Our data represent the first systematic investigation of temporal memory in sequences that goes beyond previous work based on single intervals. The results support the emerging hypothesis that time intervals are allocated a working memory resource that varies with the amount of other temporal information in a sequence.

Keywords: auditory perception; interval timing; rhythm perception; time perception; working memory.