The specific role of the striatum in interval timing: The Huntington's disease model

Neuroimage Clin. 2021;32:102865. doi: 10.1016/j.nicl.2021.102865. Epub 2021 Oct 27.


Time processing over intervals of hundreds of milliseconds to minutes, also known as interval timing, is associated with the striatum. Huntington's disease patients (HD) with striatal degeneration have impaired interval timing, but the extent and specificity of these deficits remain unclear. Are they specific to the temporal domain, or do they extend to the spatial domain too? Do they extend to both the perception and production of interval timing? Do they appear before motor symptoms in Huntington's disease (Pre-HD)? We addressed these issues by assessing both temporal abilities (in the seconds range) and spatial abilities (in the cm range) in 20 Pre-HD, 25 HD patients, and 25 healthy Controls, in discrimination, bisection and production paradigms. In addition, all participants completed a questionnaire assessing temporal and spatial disorientation in daily life, and the gene carriers (i.e., HD and Pre-HD participants) underwent structural brain MRI. Overall, HD patients were more impaired in the temporal than in the spatial domain in the behavioral tasks, and expressed a greater disorientation in the temporal domain in the daily life questionnaire. In contrast, Pre-HD participants showed no sign of a specific temporal deficit. Furthermore, MRI analyses indicated that performances in the temporal discrimination task were associated with a larger striatal grey matter volume in the striatum in gene carriers. Altogether, behavioral, brain imaging and questionnaire data support the hypothesis that the striatum is a specific component of interval timing processes. Evaluations of temporal disorientation and interval timing processing could be used as clinical tools for HD patients.

Keywords: Disorientation; Huntington’s disease; Interval timing; Striatum; Time processing.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Brain
  • Corpus Striatum / diagnostic imaging
  • Gray Matter
  • Humans
  • Huntington Disease* / genetics
  • Neuropsychological Tests