Frontal-striatal circuitry activated by human peak-interval timing in the supra-seconds range.
Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) was used to measure the location and intensity of brain activations when participants time an 11-s signal duration. The experiment evaluated six healthy adult male participants who performed the peak-interval timing procedure in variants of stimulus modality (auditory or visual) and condition (foreground or background: i.e., whether the presence or absence of the stimulus is the signal to be timed). The complete experimental design called for each signal variant to be used across four behavioral tasks presented in the following order: control, timing+motor, timing, and motor. In the control task, participants passively experienced the stimuli. The timing+motor and timing tasks were preceded by five fixed-time training trials in which participants learned the 11-s signal they would subsequently reproduce. In the timing+motor task, participants made two motor responses centered around their subjective estimate of the criterion time. For the timing task, participants were instructed to time internally without making a motor response. The motor task had participants make two cued responses that were not determined by the participant's sense of the passage of time. Neuroimaging data from the timing+motor and timing tasks showed activation of the frontal cortex, striatum and thalamus--none of which was apparent in the control or motor tasks. These results, combined with other peak-interval procedure data from drug and lesion studies in animals as well as behavioral results in human patient populations with striatal damage, support the involvement of frontal-striatal circuitry in human interval timing.
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