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Proc Biol Sci. 2018 Oct 3;285(1888). pii: 20181597. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2018.1597.

Rhythmic motor behaviour influences perception of visual time.

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Center for Translational Neurophysiology for Speech and Communication (CTNSC), Fondazione Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia, Via Fossato di Mortara, 17-19, 44121 Ferrara, Italy
Ernest J. Del Monte Institute for Neuroscience, Department of Neuroscience, University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, Rochester, NY 14642, USA.
Università di Ferrara, Dipartimento di Scienze Biomediche e Chirurgico Specialistiche, Sezione di Fisiologia Umana, Ferrara, Italy.
Department of Translational Research on New Technologies in Medicine and Surgery, University of Pisa, via San Zeno 31, 56123 Pisa, Italy.


Temporal processing is fundamental for an accurate synchronization between motor behaviour and sensory processing. Here, we investigate how motor timing during rhythmic tapping influences perception of visual time. Participants listen to a sequence of four auditory tones played at 1 Hz and continue the sequence (without auditory stimulation) by tapping four times with their finger. During finger tapping, they are presented with an empty visual interval and are asked to judge its length compared to a previously internalized interval of 150 ms. The visual temporal estimates show non-monotonic changes locked to the finger tapping: perceived time is maximally expanded at halftime between the two consecutive finger taps, and maximally compressed near tap onsets. Importantly, the temporal dynamics of the perceptual time distortion scales linearly with the timing of the motor tapping, with maximal expansion always being anchored to the centre of the inter-tap interval. These results reveal an intrinsic coupling between distortion of perceptual time and production of self-timed motor rhythms, suggesting the existence of a timing mechanism that keeps perception and action accurately synchronized.


action–perception coupling; finger tapping; sensorimotor; time perception; timing

[Available on 2019-10-10]

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