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Front Psychol. 2012 Nov 2;3:470. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2012.00470. eCollection 2012.

A neural model for temporal order judgments and their active recalibration: a common mechanism for space and time?

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Department of Neuroscience, Baylor College of Medicine Houston, TX, USA.


When observers experience a constant delay between their motor actions and sensory feedback, their perception of the temporal order between actions and sensations adapt (Stetson et al., 2006). We present here a novel neural model that can explain temporal order judgments (TOJs) and their recalibration. Our model employs three ubiquitous features of neural systems: (1) information pooling, (2) opponent processing, and (3) synaptic scaling. Specifically, the model proposes that different populations of neurons encode different delays between motor-sensory events, the outputs of these populations feed into rivaling neural populations (encoding "before" and "after"), and the activity difference between these populations determines the perceptual judgment. As a consequence of synaptic scaling of input weights, motor acts which are consistently followed by delayed sensory feedback will cause the network to recalibrate its point of subjective simultaneity. The structure of our model raises the possibility that recalibration of TOJs is a temporal analog to the motion aftereffect (MAE). In other words, identical neural mechanisms may be used to make perceptual determinations about both space and time. Our model captures behavioral recalibration results for different numbers of adapting trials and different adapting delays. In line with predictions of the model, we additionally demonstrate that temporal recalibration can last through time, in analogy to storage of the MAE.


motion aftereffect; opponent processing; recalibration; synaptic scaling; temporal order judgment

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