How does your brain tell the time?

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The changing colors reflect how a brain cell network evolves over
time in response to stimuli. (Credit: Buonomano Lab)

The brain has to constantly gauge time intervals so tiny that it must do it subconsciously, but how?

“For decades, scientists have believed that the brain possesses an internal clock that allows it to keep track of time. Now a study proposes a new model in which a series of physical changes to the brain’s cells helps the organ to monitor the passage of time.”

    “If you toss a pebble into a lake, the ripples of water produced by the pebble’s impact act like a signature of the pebble’s entry time. The farther the ripples travel the more time has passed.

    “We propose that a similar process takes place in the brain that allows it to track time. Every time the brain processes a sensory event, such as a sound or flash of light, it triggers a cascade of reactions between brain cells and their connections. Each reaction leaves a signature that enables the brain-cell network to encode time.” ~ Dean Buonomano

How accurate are you at discriminating different intervals? Try this simple test to get a measure of how good your temporal processing is.

I had a go and found I have a threshold of 12.25ms. Perhaps I’ll try later when I’m not subject to interruptions from the offspring. Or perhaps I’m just old.

NB. I looked at the comments on the review page for the test. Some people seem to be complaining that it is way too easy… this puzzled me… it’s an indication of temporal processing speed not a quiz!