Dissociable neural indices for time and space estimates during virtual distance reproduction

Neuroimage. 2021 Feb 1:226:117607. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2020.117607. Epub 2020 Dec 5.


The perception and measurement of spatial and temporal dimensions have been widely studied. Yet, whether these two dimensions are processed independently is still being debated. Additionally, whether EEG components are uniquely associated with time or space, or whether they reflect a more general measure of magnitude quantity remains unknown. While undergoing EEG, subjects performed a virtual distance reproduction task, in which they were required to first walk forward for an unknown distance or time, and then reproduce that distance or time. Walking speed was varied between estimation and reproduction phases, to prevent interference between distance or time in each estimate. Behaviorally, subject performance was more variable when reproducing time than when reproducing distance, but with similar patterns of accuracy. During estimation, EEG data revealed the contingent negative variation (CNV), a measure previously associated with timing and expectation, tracked the probability of the upcoming interval, for both time and distance. However, during reproduction, the CNV exclusively oriented to the upcoming temporal interval at the start of reproduction, with no change across spatial distances. Our findings indicate that time and space are neurally separable dimensions, with the CNV both serving a supramodal role in temporal and spatial expectation, yet an exclusive role in preparing duration reproduction.

Keywords: Distance reproduction; Path integration; Space perception; Time perception.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Contingent Negative Variation
  • Electroencephalography / methods
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Space Perception / physiology*
  • Time Perception / physiology*
  • Young Adult