Neuroanatomical and neurochemical substrates of timing.


Journal Article (Review)

We all have a sense of time. Yet, there are no sensory receptors specifically dedicated for perceiving time. It is an almost uniquely intangible sensation: we cannot see time in the way that we see color, shape, or even location. So how is time represented in the brain? We explore the neural substrates of metrical representations of time such as duration estimation (explicit timing) or temporal expectation (implicit timing). Basal ganglia (BG), supplementary motor area, cerebellum, and prefrontal cortex have all been linked to the explicit estimation of duration. However, each region may have a functionally discrete role and will be differentially implicated depending upon task context. Among these, the dorsal striatum of the BG and, more specifically, its ascending nigrostriatal dopaminergic pathway seems to be the most crucial of these regions, as shown by converging functional neuroimaging, neuropsychological, and psychopharmacological investigations in humans, as well as lesion and pharmacological studies in animals. Moreover, neuronal firing rates in both striatal and interconnected frontal areas vary as a function of duration, suggesting a neurophysiological mechanism for the representation of time in the brain, with the excitatory-inhibitory balance of interactions among distinct subtypes of striatal neuron serving to fine-tune temporal accuracy and precision.

Full Text

Cited Authors

  • Coull, JT; Cheng, R-K; Meck, WH

Published Date

  • January 2011

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 36 / 1

Start / End Page

  • 3 - 25

PubMed ID

  • 20668434

Pubmed Central ID

  • 20668434

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1740-634X

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0893-133X

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1038/npp.2010.113


  • eng