Analysis of Genetic and Non-Genetic Factors Influencing Timing and Time Perception

PLoS One. 2015 Dec 7;10(12):e0143873. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0143873. eCollection 2015.


Performance on different psychophysical tasks measuring the sense of time indicates a large amount of individual variation in the accuracy and precision of timing in the hundredths of milliseconds-to-minutes range. Quantifying factors with an influence on timing is essential to isolating a biological (genetic) contribution to the perception and estimation of time. In the largest timing study to date, 647 participants completed a duration-discrimination task in the sub-second range and a time-production task in the supra-second range. We confirm the stability of a participant's time sense across multiple sessions and substantiate a modest sex difference on time production. Moreover, we demonstrate a strong correlation between performance on a standardized cognitive battery and performance in both duration-discrimination and time-production tasks; we further show that performance is uncorrelated with age after controlling for general intelligence. Additionally, we find an effect of ethnicity on time sense, with African Americans and possibly Hispanics in our cohort differing in accuracy and precision from other ethnic groups. Finally, a preliminary genome-wide association and exome chip study was performed on 148 of the participants, ruling out the possibility for a single common variant or groups of low-frequency coding variants within a single gene to explain more than ~18% of the variation in the sense of time.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • African Americans / psychology
  • Aged
  • Circadian Rhythm / genetics
  • Exome*
  • Female
  • Genetic Association Studies
  • Genome-Wide Association Study
  • Hispanic Americans / psychology
  • Humans
  • Intelligence / genetics
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Time Factors
  • Time Perception / physiology*
  • Young Adult