Center for Sensorimotor Neural Engineering (CSNE) member, Mehrdad Jazayeri, is senior author of a study at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) that provides new evidence showing how the brain keeps time.
Timing is important for many everyday activities, so better understanding how the brain processes and tracks time helps researchers intent on engineering brain-computer interfaces that can improve the body’s sensorimotor function.
Prior models for how the brain achieves precise control over timing were focused on the idea that there might be a centralized clock, or pacemaker somewhere in the brain that keeps time for the entire brain. However, this new study shows that there is evidence for an alternative timekeeping system that relies on the neurons responsible for producing a specific action. Depending on the time interval required, these neurons compress or stretch out the steps they take to generate the behavior at a specific time.
“What we found is that it’s a very active process. The brain is not passively waiting for a clock to reach a particular point,” said Jazayeri in MIT News.
Next steps for Jazayeri include exploring further how the brain generates the neural patterns seen during varying time intervals and also how our expectations influence our ability to produce different intervals.