An Intrinsic Role of Beta Oscillations in Memory for Time Estimation

Sci Rep. 2018 May 22;8(1):7992. doi: 10.1038/s41598-018-26385-6.


The neural mechanisms underlying time perception are of vital importance to a comprehensive understanding of behavior and cognition. Recent work has suggested a supramodal role for beta oscillations in measuring temporal intervals. However, the precise function of beta oscillations and whether their manipulation alters timing has yet to be determined. To accomplish this, we first re-analyzed two, separate EEG datasets and demonstrate that beta oscillations are associated with the retention and comparison of a memory standard for duration. We next conducted a study of 20 human participants using transcranial alternating current stimulation (tACS), over frontocentral cortex, at alpha and beta frequencies, during a visual temporal bisection task, finding that beta stimulation exclusively shifts the perception of time such that stimuli are reported as longer in duration. Finally, we decomposed trialwise choice data with a drift diffusion model of timing, revealing that the shift in timing is caused by a change in the starting point of accumulation, rather than the drift rate or threshold. Our results provide evidence for the intrinsic involvement of beta oscillations in the perception of time, and point to a specific role for beta oscillations in the encoding and retention of memory for temporal intervals.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Biological Clocks / physiology*
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology
  • Cognition / physiology
  • Electroencephalography* / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory / physiology*
  • Neural Pathways / physiology
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology
  • Time
  • Time Perception / physiology*
  • Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation
  • Young Adult