Research Topic

Sub-and supra-second timing: brain, learning and development

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Time perception in the range of milliseconds to a few seconds is essential for many important sensory and perceptual tasks including speech perception, motion perception, motor coordination, and cross-modal interaction. For the brain to be in synchrony with the environment, the differences in the speeds of ...

Time perception in the range of milliseconds to a few seconds is essential for many important sensory and perceptual tasks including speech perception, motion perception, motor coordination, and cross-modal interaction. For the brain to be in synchrony with the environment, the differences in the speeds of light and sound must be processed. Moreover, neural transmission delays have to be accounted for. As a side effect of regular processing demands, in specific constellations temporal illusions such as the flash-lag effect or the cutaneous rabbit illusion can occur. Non-temporal factors, such as emotional states elicited by salient stimuli and looming vs. receding stimuli of ecological significance trigger temporal distortions (temporal dilation vs. contraction), giving rise to subjective time that may be different to event time initially registered in the brain. This reasoning can also be applied to the detection of the temporal dynamics of mental events and brain events occurring during the Libet task, findings which have led to a hot debate concerning free will. An interdisciplinary approach, including psychophysics, single neural recordings, neural imaging studies and computational models, has been widely adopted and continues to delineate the underlying mechanisms in the brain.


Recent trends of research have demonstrated that time perception in a multisensory world is subject to learning processes. From a development perspective, perception related to many facets of sub- and supra-second timing such as simultaneity judgment, temporal order judgment, duration/interval discrimination as well as rhythm (regularity) perception, unfolds across the life-span development, especially at the early stage of life (toddlers). Moreover, humans are active learners. That is, the engagement of the own body in a timing task within a perceptual-action loop will make a noticeable difference in timing performance, as compared to when humans only passively perceive the same perceptual scenario. This calls for a deep investigation of how the embodied experience shapes the perception of time and the timing of events.


Perception of sub- and supra-second duration might be recalibrated within a short-temporal scale, as typified in temporal ventriloquism illusion (trial-by-trial). On the other hand, timing abilities could be improved with perceptual learning. A major scientific question is whether the learning procedure changes the inherent time representation in each individual/unisensory modality and how consolidation makes a role in obtaining the learning benefits. Last but not least, the perception of the events in a cluttered environment usually calls for an economic and efficient temporal encoding. Ensemble coding (i.e., perceptual averaging) has been successfully applied in the spatial domain ---- extracting the spatial-surface related properties for a group of simultaneously presented visual objects. It remains largely unknown whether ensemble encoding, interfaced with statistical learning of the event patterns, could be implemented in perceiving sub- and supra- second in a multisensory context.


This Research Topic welcomes novel research on sub- and supra-timing, including newly developed research paradigms, theoretical models and perspectives, and articles concerning brain plasticity of time perception (also from a life-development perspective), and the investigations of contextual socio-cognitive influences on the perception of time.


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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