Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Neuroscientists are figuring out how brain handles time and how our experiences are being recorded in memory:

there is not a single "film roll" in the brain, but many separate streams, each recording a separate piece of information. What's more, this way of dealing with incoming information may not apply solely to motion perception. Other brain processes, such as object or sound recognition, might also be processed as discrete packets.

To investigate, VanRullen examined another neural function, called near-threshold luminance detection. He exposed his subjects to flashes of light barely bright enough to see, and found that the likelihood of them noticing the light depended on the phase of another wave in the front of the brain, which rises and falls about 7 times per second. It turned out that subjects were more likely to detect the flash when the wave was near its trough, and miss it when the wave was near its peak.

In everyday life we measure time by comparing our processes to standard processes, such rotation of the Earth around the Sun. It looks like the brain has its own set of standard internal processes that determine the pace of cognition. Here's an interesting experiment that induces accelerated thinking:

Luke Jones at the University of Manchester, UK, decided to test the subjects' rate of mental processing during the experience. After exposing them to the clicks, he measured how quickly they could accomplish three different tasks: basic arithmetic, memorising words or hitting a specific key on a computer keyboard.

The results, to be published in the Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, showed that the clicks accelerated the subjects' performance in all three tasks by 10 to 20 per cent. It was as if the drumbeat of their brain's internal slave galley had sped up - compelling each neuron to row faster. White noise had no such effect. "Information processing in the brain is running in subjective time," says Weardon. "If you speed up people's subjective time, they really do seem to have more time to process things."

This would make a good iPhone/Android app!

tags: time, payload, process, control, brain, mind

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