Cognitive Aging and Time Perception: Roles of Bayesian Optimization and Degeneracy

Front Aging Neurosci. 2016 May 18;8:102. doi: 10.3389/fnagi.2016.00102. eCollection 2016.


This review outlines the basic psychological and neurobiological processes associated with age-related distortions in timing and time perception in the hundredths of milliseconds-to-minutes range. The difficulty in separating indirect effects of impairments in attention and memory from direct effects on timing mechanisms is addressed. The main premise is that normal aging is commonly associated with increased noise and temporal uncertainty as a result of impairments in attention and memory as well as the possible reduction in the accuracy and precision of a central timing mechanism supported by dopamine-glutamate interactions in cortico-striatal circuits. Pertinent to these findings, potential interventions that may reduce the likelihood of observing age-related declines in timing are discussed. Bayesian optimization models are able to account for the adaptive changes observed in time perception by assuming that older adults are more likely to base their temporal judgments on statistical inferences derived from multiple trials than on a single trial's clock reading, which is more susceptible to distortion. We propose that the timing functions assigned to the age-sensitive fronto-striatal network can be subserved by other neural networks typically associated with finely-tuned perceptuo-motor adjustments, through degeneracy principles (different structures serving a common function).

Keywords: attention; clock; decision-making; interval timing; memory; striatal beat-frequency model.

Publication types

  • Review