Friday, May 24, 2013

Automatic v controlled cognitive brain clock timing systems: A link with working memory?

[Double click on image to enlarge]

Contemporary research (Buhusi & Meck, 2005; Lewis & Miall, 2006) supports the idea that there are two mental timing circuits that can be dissociated: (1) an automatic timing system that works in the millisecond range, which is used in discrete-event (discontinuous) timing, and involves the cerebellum; and (2) a continuous-event, cognitively controlled timing system that requires attention and involves the basal ganglia and related cortical structures.

The above figure, which is based on a meta-analysis of studies (see Lewis & Miall, 2006), provides neurological evidence for two such systems via the localization of each system in different parts of the brain. What I (as a cognitive psychologist with a primary interest in psychological testing and theories of intelligence-see IQs Corner) find particularly intriguing is the conclusion (as reported in the Lewis & Miall, 2006 article as well as many other articles I've read) that the primary brain region associated with the cognitively controlled timing system is that also primarily associated with working memory--the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC).

  • Buhusi, W. & Meck, C. (Oct, 2005). What makes us tick: Functional and neural mechanism of interval timing. Nature Reviews: Neuroscience, 6, 755-765
  • Lewis, P. & Miall, C (2006). Remembering the time: a continuous clock. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 10(9), 401-406.

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