Monday, October 16, 2006

Time is fundamental dimension of life: Interval and milisecond mental timing

I'm now convinced, after considerable reading of psychological and neuroscience research the past few years, that Buhusi and Meck (2005) are correct (and they are not the first to make this obvious statement) that "time is a fundamental dimension" of life. I must confess that, as an applied psychometrican, I've failed to appreciate the importance of timing and temporal cognitive processes in my measurement/assessment work to date. I hope, via this blog, to make up some ground.

In their October 2005 article in Nature Reviews: Neuroscience (What makes us tick? Functional and nural mechanisms of interval timing), the authors present a very interesting figure (that represents a compilation of animal and human studies) that suggests that, in order "to deal with time, organisms have developed multiple systems that are active over more than 10 orders of magnitude with varying degrees of precision." A larger version of this excellent figure can be viewed by clicking here.

As can be seen in the figure, three general classes of timing systems, that are associated with different behaviors, brain structures, and brain mechanisms, have been identified. The three systems are labled circadian, interval, and milisecond timing. The later two (interval and milisecond) are the two systems of particular interest to the IQ Brain Clock blog, as they appear most involved in empirical and theoretical explanations related to cognitive/intellectual functioning, my primary area of interest (see IQs Corner). Brief defintions (from Buhusi and Meck, 2005) follow below
  • Interval timing: Perception, estimation and discrimination of durations in the range of seconds-to-minutes- to-hours.
  • Milisecond timing: Perception, estimation and discrimination of durations in the sub-second range.
More to come.

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