Scientists Unveil Secret of Time Perception in Mice

Recent Study Sheds Light on How the Brain Processes Time

The perception of time is a crucial aspect of our daily interactions with the world around us. Whether it’s performing simple tasks or mastering complex skills like driving a car, our brains are constantly evaluating the duration of events. This seemingly straightforward process is actually a complex mechanism that operates mostly on a subconscious level.

A recent study has provided new insights into this mysterious aspect of the brain. Researchers conducting experiments on mice discovered a special group of neurons known as “time cells.” These cells play a pivotal role in the development of complex behavioral patterns where the accuracy of time intervals is of utmost importance.

The functioning of these “time cells” is akin to a clock mechanism: they are activated sequentially, much like the movement of a second hand marking short intervals. This discovery not only enhances our understanding of the brain but also paves the way for further exploration of time perception in humans.

Research in Nature Neuroscience

Scientists utilized a sophisticated time-dependent task and advanced brain visualization techniques to observe the activity of time cells in mice. Initially, the mice were required to learn to differentiate between temporal patterns of odor stimuli in order to receive a reward. As the mice were trained, the time cells exhibited a uniform response to all stimulus patterns initially, but their activity became distinctive for each pattern as they mastered them.

An intriguing finding was that when the mice made errors, the time cells were activated in the incorrect sequence, underscoring the significance of the sequential activity of time cells in performing temporal tasks.

Researchers also discovered that time cells serve a more intricate function beyond time tracking. When the activity of time cells in the Medial Entorhinal Cortex (MEC) was temporarily blocked, mice were still able to perceive and even anticipate the timing of events but struggled to learn new challenging temporal tasks.

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