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Brain Cogn. 2002 Feb;48(1):195-211.

Dissecting the brain's internal clock: how frontal-striatal circuitry keeps time and shifts attention.

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Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, Duke University, Durham, NC 27708, USA.


The ability of organisms to time and coordinate temporal sequences of events and to select particular aspects of their internal and external environments to which they will attend is vital to the organism's ability to adapt to the world around them. Numerous psychological theories have been proposed that describe how organisms might accomplish such stimulus selection and represent discrete temporal events as well as rhythm production. In addition, a large number of studies have demonstrated that damage to the frontostriatal circuitry appears to compromise the ability of organisms to successfully shift attention and behavior to adapt to changing temporal contexts. This suggests that frontostriatal circuitry is involved in the ability to make such shifts and to process temporal intervals. A selective review is accomplished in this article which focuses upon the specific neural mechanisms that may be involved in interval timing and set shifting. It is concluded that prefrontal cortex, substantia nigra pars compacta, pedunculopontine nucleus, and the direct and indirect pathways from the caudate to the thalamus may provide the neuroanatomical and neurophysiological substrates that underlie the organism's ability to shift its attention from one temporal context to another.

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