Sussex Centre for Consciousness Science


The Sussex Centre for Consciousness Science publishes research in a wide range of journals and other scientific publications.

Featured Article

Trial-by-trial predictions of subjective time from human brain activity

Sherman, M.T., Fountas, Z., Seth, A.K., Roseboom, W. (in press)  PLOS Computational Biology

trial sequence images

Researchers at University of Sussex have revealed that the way in which our brain creates a sense of time may be much simpler than previously thought.

There is a long history of psychologists assuming the brain houses metaphorical ‘clocks’ which track time for us, but Sussex scientists explain that our sense of time isn’t like a clock at all: it varies depending on other aspects of experience such as what we see and hear in that moment or how engaging an activity is. Models of time perception based on ‘inner clocks’ struggle to accommodate these findings.

In a new study published in PLOS Computational Biology, the researchers show that our brains may construct a sense of time simply from information that emerges during processing of sensory information coming from the world around us (see also Roseboom, 2019).

The authors hypothesised that when sensory areas of the brain detect more pertinent, or salient, events then we will feel that more time has elapsed.

The study analysed activity in sensory areas of the brain, recorded while participants watched silent videos and estimated their duration. The authors looked at relatively large changes in brain activity in visual areas – information thought to be the basis for visual processing – and showed that when there were more of these changes, videos felt longer to the participants. Using a computational model, participants’ subjective sense of duration could be successfully reconstructed for each video they watched, purely from their brain activity associated with processing that video.

The study reveals that the information arising during perceptual processing of our dynamic environment provides a sufficient basis for reconstructing human subjective time.

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