Memory as Perception of the Past: Compressed Time inMind and Brain

Trends Cogn Sci. 2018 Feb;22(2):124-136. doi: 10.1016/j.tics.2017.11.004.


In the visual system retinal space is compressed such that acuity decreases further from the fovea. Different forms of memory may rely on a compressed representation of time, manifested as decreased accuracy for events that happened further in the past. Neurophysiologically, "time cells" show receptive fields in time. Analogous to the compression of visual space, time cells show less acuity for events further in the past. Behavioral evidence suggests memory can be accessed by scanning a compressed temporal representation, analogous to visual search. This suggests a common computational language for visual attention and memory retrieval. In this view, time functions like a scaffolding that organizes memories in much the same way that retinal space functions like a scaffolding for visual perception.

Keywords: Memory; Vision; attention; time.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Brain / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Memory*
  • Time Factors
  • Time Perception / physiology
  • Visual Perception / physiology*