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Ryota Kanai, Chris L. E. Paffen, Hinze Hogendoorn, Frans A. J. Verstraten; Time dilation in dynamic visual display. Journal of Vision 2006;6(12):8. doi: 10.1167/6.12.8.
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How does the brain estimate time? This old question has led to many biological and psychological models of time perception (R. A. Block, 1989; P. Fraisse, 1963; J. Gibbon, 1977; D. L. I. Zakay, 1989). Because time cannot be directly measured at a given moment, it has been proposed that the brain estimates time based on the number of changes in an event (S. W. Brown, 1995; P. Fraisse, 1963; W. D. Poynter, 1989). Consistent with this idea, dynamic visual stimuli are known to lengthen perceived time (J. F. Brown, 1931; S. Goldstone & W. T. Lhamon, 1974; W. T. Lhamon & S. Goldstone, 1974, C. O. Z. Roelofs & W. P. C. Zeeman, 1951). However, the kind of information that constitutes the basis for time perception remains unresolved. Here, we show that the temporal frequency of a stimulus serves as the “clock” for perceived duration. Other aspects of changes, such as speed or coherence, were found to be inconsequential. Time dilation saturated at a temporal frequency of 4–8 Hz. These results suggest that the clock governing perceived time has its basis at early processing stages. The possible links between models of time perception and neurophysiological functions of early visual areas are discussed.
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