Recalibrating timing behavior via expected covariance between temporal cues

Elife. 2018 Nov 2;7:e38790. doi: 10.7554/eLife.38790.


Individuals must predict future events to proactively guide their behavior. Predicting when events will occur is a critical component of these expectations. Temporal expectations are often generated based on individual cue-duration relationships. However, the durations associated with different environmental cues will often co-vary due to a common cause. We show that timing behavior may be calibrated based on this expected covariance, which we refer to as the 'common cause hypothesis'. In five experiments using rats, we found that when the duration associated with one temporal cue changes, timed-responding to other cues shift in the same direction. Furthermore, training subjects that expecting covariance is not appropriate in a given situation blocks this effect. Finally, we confirmed that this transfer is context-dependent. These results reveal a novel principle that modulates timing behavior, which we predict will apply across a variety of magnitude-expectations.

Keywords: cauality; causal reasoning; evolutionary biology; interval timing; neuroscience; peak-interval procedure; rat; statistical inference; time perception.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology*
  • Cues*
  • Rats
  • Time Factors