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Trends Cogn Sci. 2010 Dec;14(12):520-7. doi: 10.1016/j.tics.2010.09.002.

Population clocks: motor timing with neural dynamics.

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Department of Neurobiology, University of California, Los Angeles, Box 951761, Los Angeles, CA 90095, USA.


An understanding of sensory and motor processing will require elucidation of the mechanisms by which the brain tells time. Open questions relate to whether timing relies on dedicated or intrinsic mechanisms and whether distinct mechanisms underlie timing across scales and modalities. Although experimental and theoretical studies support the notion that neural circuits are intrinsically capable of sensory timing on short scales, few general models of motor timing have been proposed. For one class of models, population clocks, it is proposed that time is encoded in the time-varying patterns of activity of a population of neurons. We argue that population clocks emerge from the internal dynamics of recurrently connected networks, are biologically realistic and account for many aspects of motor timing.

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