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Psychophysiology. 1991 Nov;28(6):648-55.

The processing of temporal intervals reflected by CNV-like brain potentials.

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Institut für Experimentelle Audiologie, Universität Münster, Tübingen, Germany.


The present study employed event-related potentials (ERPs) of the brain to improve the understanding of temporal processing. A reproduction paradigm was realized by presenting a visual stimulus (illuminated screen) for intervals of varying length. A few seconds after presentation of such standard intervals the visual stimulus was switched on again and subjects were asked to reproduce the duration of the standard interval by turning off the illumination after a corresponding interval had elapsed. The length of standard intervals varied randomly with each of the following lengths being presented 20 times: 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, and 8 s. Reproduction was accurate for standard intervals up to 3 s but deteriorated with increasing interval length. Brain potentials during reproduction intervals of 1-3 s differed from those recorded during the longer intervals. A CNV-like slow negative shift developed during the shorter reproduction intervals. Negatively was reduced or even absent, when subjects had to reproduce standard intervals of 4 s or longer. The ERP results suggest that intervals shorter than 3-4 s may evoke a processing mode that is qualitatively different from the one dominating when periods in the range of several seconds have to be processed.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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