Phineas Gage, Gauging Time

 – March 16, 2015  –– 

Why do people feel the hours pass more slowly or quickly than they really do? Heather Berlin, PhD, Assistant Professor of Neuroscience and Psychiatry, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, conducted a study of time perception during graduate school by having participants read index cards with random numbers printed on them, then asking the participants how long they thought the task had lasted. Reading the numbers out loud kept participants from counting to keep track of time. In a digitized version of the experiment on her tablet computer, Berlin spoke to healthy people and people with orbitofrontal cortex lesions and subjected them all to her digitized time-perception test. Berlin asked participants to tell her when they believed 90 seconds had passed as she distracted them with the randomized numbers. Participants with undamaged brains tended to let a few more than 90 seconds pass before stopping her, indicating a slightly slower perception of time. Participants with orbitofrontal cortex damage, however, would stop her at almost exactly 90 seconds, indicating a more accurate perception of time.

-Heather Berlin, PhD, Assistant Professor of Neuroscience and Psychiatry, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai

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