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Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2009 Jul 12;364(1525):1887-96. doi: 10.1098/rstb.2009.0015.

Pre-semantically defined temporal windows for cognitive processing.

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Human Science Center, Institute for Medical Psychology and Human Science Center, Ludwig Maximilian University Munich, Goethestrasse 31, Munich, Germany.


Neuronal oscillations of different frequencies are hypothesized to be basic for temporal perception; this theoretical concept provides the frame to discuss two temporal mechanisms that are thought to be essential for cognitive processing. One such mechanism operates with periods of oscillations in the range of some tens of milliseconds, and is used for complexity reduction of temporally and spatially distributed neuronal activities. Experimental evidence comes from studies on temporal-order threshold, choice reaction time, single-cell activities, evoked responses in neuronal populations or latency distributions of oculomotor responses. The other mechanism refers to pre-semantic integration in the temporal range of approximately 2-3 s. Experimental evidence comes from studies on temporal reproduction, sensorimotor synchronization, intentional movements, speech segmentation, the shift rate of ambiguous stimuli in the visual or auditory modality or the temporal modulation of the mismatch negativity. These different observations indicate the existence of a universal process of temporal integration underlying the mental machinery. This process is believed to be basic for maintenance and change of perceptual identity. Owing to the omnipresence of this kind of temporal segmentation, it is suggested to use this process for a pragmatic definition of the states of being conscious or the 'subjective presence'.

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