While study of Time-Perception is, according to many, a sub-discipline of chronobiology, I personally know very little about it. Time perception is defined as interval timing, i.e., measuring duration of events (as opposed to counting, figuring which one of the two events happened first and which one second, or measuring time of day or year).
Still, since this blog is about all aspects of biological timing, I have to point you to a new paper in Neuron (press release) about a new computer model for human time-perception.
“If you toss a pebble into a lake,” he explained, “the ripples of water produced by the pebble’s impact act like a signature of the pebble’s entry time. The farther the ripples travel the more time has passed.
“We propose that a similar process takes place in the brain that allows it to track time,” he added. “Every time the brain processes a sensory event, such as a sound or flash of light, it triggers a cascade of reactions between brain cells and their connections. Each reaction leaves a signature that enables the brain-cell network to encode time.”
Of course, this is a little vague as far as neurophysiology goes, and we need to remember that even the most brilliant mathematical model may end up being wrong. Still, the model seems nifty and I hope they follow up with real lab work to test it.
Steve of Omni Brain has more and points to this 2005 review of the topic in Nature Review Neuroscience.