How the Brain Perceives Time So You Can Manage Time Demands, not Time

Many daily actions like perceiving through the senses, speaking, and walking require accurate timing, often to milliseconds.

These underlying brain mechanisms are crucial to determining causality, decoding temporal patterns, and managing “time demands,” a commitment to complete a task in the future.

Francis Wade

Francis Wade

Francis Wade suggests conducting a systemic diagnostic assessment of current time demand management practices to identify effective approaches, and those that can benefit from fine-tuning.
This leads to a plan that requires external support from people and technology.

But these processes depend on the brain’s accurate time perception.
-*How does the brain perceive time?

David Eagleman

David Eagleman

Baylor College of Medicine’s David M. Eagleman summarized extensive research that answers this question, with collaboration from Peter U. Tse of Dartmouth, UCLA’s Dean Buonomano, Peter Janssen of Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, University of Oxford’s Anna Christina Nobre, and Alex O. Holcombe of Cardiff University.

Peter Tse

Peter Tse

One recent change to the prevailing view that the basal ganglia and cerebellar systems are the brain’s main timekeepers comes from University of New Mexico’s Deborah L. Harrington and Kathleen Y. Haaland.

Kathleen Haaland

Kathleen Haaland

They built on this finding in work with Robert T. Knight of University of California, Davis, investigating the cerebral cortex’s role in perceptual timekeeping by studying task performance of volunteers with focal left (LHD) or right hemisphere (RHD) lesions compared with uninjured participants.

Robert T. Knight

Robert T. Knight

The groups performed a time duration perception task and a frequency perception task, which controlled for non-time processes in both tasks.
Only people with right hemisphere cerebral cortex lesions showed time perception deficits, suggesting that this area also contributes to perceptual timekeeping

People with this damage who accurately perceived time were also able to switch nonspatial attention, implying that time perception and attention switching are linked.
This group had no damage in the premotor and prefrontal cortex, in contrast to those who performed poorly on the time perception.
These results indicate that premotor and prefrontal cortex areas also contribute to accurate time perception.

Richard Ivry

Richard Ivry

Neural systems underlying timing processes may point to remedies for brain injuries that involve motor timing irregularities such as Parkinson’s disease, according to UC Berkeley’s Richard Ivry and Rebecca Spencer of UMass.  

Rebecca Spencer

Rebecca Spencer

Medical University of South Carolina’s Catalin V. Buhusi and
 Warren H. Meck of Duke University suggest that subjective time perception or psychological time is represented by multiple “internal clocks” that judge duration relative to the relevant time context.

Catalin V. Buhusi

Catalin V. Buhusi

Richard Ivry reported that the cerebellum can be considered as operating multiple “internal clocks,” suggesting a physiological basis for Buhusi and Meck’s multi-clock construct.

-*How do you manage time demands for future performance?

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2 thoughts on “How the Brain Perceives Time So You Can Manage Time Demands, not Time

  1. fwade

    Wow – how you find the time to do great research in so many fields is astounding!

    Thanks for the mention!!

    I have been working on the issue of punctuality lately. Apparently it has something to do with economic growth, which is interesting to me here in the Caribbean… As you may imagine! I can send you the little I have found thus far, if interested.

    When I get back to my desk I’ll check out the article in depth.


    Framework Consulting Inc / 876-880-8653 /


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