A single mechanism account of duration and rate processing via the pacemaker-accumulator and beat frequency models

Curr Opin Behav Sci. 2016 Apr;8:268-275. doi: 10.1016/j.cobeha.2016.02.026.


Time is an essential dimension of our environment that allows us to extract meaningful information about speed of movement, speech, motor actions and fine motor control. Traditionally, models of time have tried to quantify how the brain might process the duration of an event. The most commonly cited are the pacemaker-accumulator model and the beat frequency model of interval timing, which explain how duration is perceived, represented and encoded. Here we posit such models as providing a powerful tool for simultaneously extracting, representing and encoding stimulus rate information. That is, any model that can process duration has all the information needed to code stimulus rate. We explore different processing strategies which would enable rate to be read off from both the pacemaker-accumulator and beat frequency model of interval timing. Finally we explore open questions that, when answered, will shed light upon potential mechanisms for duration and rate estimation.

Keywords: Temporal processing; beat frequency model; duration; pacemaker-accumulator model; rate; unified mechanism.