Note — Sep 27, 2020

Reasons Revealed for the Brain’s Elastic Sense of Time

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Article at Quanta largely based on a paper at Nature Neuroscience, by a trio of researchers at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel. Humans perceive time in a very elastic way, varying according to multiple factors, for example emotions, music, events in our surroundings and shifts in our attention. There seems to be a link between time perception, dopamine, and “the mechanism that helps us learn through rewards and punishments.”

They found evidence for a long-suspected connection between time perception and the mechanism that helps us learn through rewards and punishments. They also demonstrated that the perception of time is wedded to our brain’s constantly updated expectations about what will happen next. […]

But decades of research suggest that the neurotransmitter dopamine plays a critical role in how we perceive time. Dopamine has myriad effects on how much time we think has elapsed in a given period, and these effects may conflict confusingly.