Circuitry of time perception?

Steven Roy Daviss sdaviss at
Wed Jan 12 07:44:57 EST 1994

On Tue, 11 Jan 1994, Martin S. Singleton wrote:

> In <ewass-100194165427 at> ewass at (Eric Wassermann) writes:
> >> 	Is anything known about the neural circuitry involved in the 
> >> 	estimation or perception of time?
> >> Can anyone shed light on this topic?
> In as much as schizophrenia involves possible structural abnormalities and
> brain short-circuitry, it might be significant that, of course, schizophrenics
> suffer from time-lapses, where they lose track of hours and even days on end.

Do people with schizophrenia, in fact, suffer from time-lapses?  I hadn't
thought about it and can't recall anyone ever complaining of this, but I'd
be interested to know of any references that discuss this.  The only
syndromes that I am aware of that have "time-lapses" as a distinguishing
feature are coma (obvious), epilepsy (minutes), psychogenic amnesia (days
to months: "I don't know who I am") , psychogenic fugue (days to months:
the businessman/father who "disappears", only to be later discovered that
he's been living in another city, has assumed a new identity, and has no
recollection of his past life), and multiple personality disorder (where
the "dominant personality" may not recall periods during which an alter is
in control).  

> I would also point out that as people get older, time seems to go by much more
> quickly.  Could it be that a "year" to a 10-year old is neurotemporally much
> longer than one to a 50-year old?

That is a fascinating notion.  Does anyone know of experiments that
demonstrate accurate perception of time is a function of age?  Sort of
reminds me of a Star Trek episode in which one of the crew experienced
time more slowly--that is, a minute of his time might be a second of the

This idea also calls to mind Bipolar disorder.  During a manic episode,
the individual can be more productive, speak faster, and have faster
thoughts.  This "flight of ideas" may sound disconnected to the listener,
but the speaker can often be successfully challenged to explain the
connections between concepts.  I've wondered if someone who is manic
experiences time differently--as if they are operating at a
higher "clock speed".
> Another factor to consider is entropy.  The passage of time is in fact the 
> direct result of the second law of thermodynamics, and hence since the brain
> is so much more ordered as the cerebrum becomes developed, it could be said
> that as order increases, the perception of time slows down.

Is this not contrary to the above concept, where a child experiences a
calendar "year" as longer than what an adult experiences?

(BTW, thank you <6 or 7 other posters> for the other postings and
references.  When I have time :-) I'll post some follow-ups after
reviewing some of these.)


 Steven R. Daviss                      Internet: sdaviss at 
 Maryland Psychiatric Research Center              Voice: (410) 455-7624 
 PO Box 21247,  Baltimore, MD 21228 USA              Fax: (410) 455-7527 

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