Thursday, December 17, 2009

Time and Schizophrenia

A direct link to the above video is at

In Time is in the Mind, we looked at the work of neuroscientist David Eagleman, and quoted from a New Scientist magazine article written by Douglas Fox. Here's some more from that article:

Schizophrenia certainly seems to affect people's perception of time. If someone with schizophrenia is shown a flash of light and a sound separated by 1/10th of a second, they typically have trouble discerning which came first. Such people also estimate the passing of time less accurately than most others. Now a flurry of studies has shown that if you upset the internal clocks of healthy people, you can create some of the symptoms and delusions associated with schizophrenia.

In one experiment, healthy volunteers learned to play a video game in which they had to steer a plane around obstacles. Once people became used to the game, the researchers modified it to insert a 0.2-second delay in the plane's response to volunteers moving the computer mouse. After the modification, the players' performance initially worsened; but in time their brains compensated for the delay, to the extent that they actually perceived the movement of the mouse and the movement of the aircraft to take place simultaneously.

But the subjects' strangest experience occurred then the experimenters removed the delay and set the timing back to normal. Suddenly, the players were perceiving the plane to be moving before they consciously steered it with the mouse (Psychological Science, vol 12, p 532). That's uncannily similar to how people with schizophrenia describe feelings that they are somehow being controlled by another being.

Fascinating! I found this particularly interesting to think about within the context of recent studies that show people can form their decisions to do one thing or another well before they are consciously aware of their decision: in Is Creativity a Quantum Process we briefly looked at some articles (like this one from the Wall Street Journal) discussing the recently published work of psychologist Joydeep Bhattacharya of London's Goldsmith College. Amazingly, Dr. Bhattacharya's brainwave monitoring experiments revealed evidence that people can have arrived at a solution to a problem as much as 8 seconds before their conscious minds become aware of it!

There have been arguments proposing that results such as these demonstrate that our free will is an illusion, because the neuro-chemical activity that forms our decisions may be some inevitable "behind the scenes" process which we interpret as our free will by the time we consciously feel ourselves choosing (and persons familiar with this project will know that I strongly disagree with any conclusions that free will doesn't exist). Here's one more paragraph from that New Scientist magazine article:

The idea could explain many of the experiences reported by people with schizophrenia. By muddling the order of thoughts and perceptions within your brain, for example, you might move your hand before you are conscious of the decision, making it feel as if someone else is controlling your movements. And when an ad appears on TV, your brain might picture the product before it consciously registers seeing it on screen - creating the disturbing illusion that your thoughts are being broadcast on television.

Next, in Consciousness in Frames per Second and in Time and Music, we're going to talk about how musicians deal with these processes all the time. One very general definition of music is that it's "sound organized across time". If, as we've said in the last few entries (Life is But a Dream and Time is in the Mind) reality and time are created by our role as observers in underlying quantum processes, then how does the "frame rate" of our consciousness play into all this? And does realizing the importance of this frame rate help us to better understand theories we've discussed in previous entries such as The Biocentric Universe Part 2, The Flexi-Laws of Physics, and Beer and Miracles? Let's follow that line of reasoning and see where it takes us.

Enjoy the journey!

Rob Bryanton

Next: Consciousness in Frames per Second


Myrtone said...

"If someone with schizophrenia is shown a flash of light and a sound separated by 1/10th of a second, they typically have trouble discerning which came first. Such people also estimate the passing of time less accurately than most others."

Isn't it the same with dyslexics, while autistics are probably the opposite.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

I was fascinated by the experiment with the 0.2 sec delay on the game you talked about so i decided to make a simple game like that.

You need Java installed to run it. My youtube profile is WASDsweden if you have any questions or would like me to modify something in the game.

k. said...

There is : time does not exists, there is human being delusion. How to reach 0 to 1 second , if there have infinite between then?
0 sec ----infinite---- 1 seconds.
All is a matter of entropy changes, energy moves.A relation between velocity and energy. As more speed have the observer more frames of energy he can see. And just advice;Matrix is real, than dont try to mess with them, only play their game.

Anonymous said...

Matter is vibration, this is fact. Our brains are capable of greatness, yet we waste them. Also past existence of scitzophrenia looked at as gift from gods. All of these things combined with knowledge of psychology and sociology, show that only in Christian society is this "disease" frowned upon. Nearly any found instance of shamans, clerics, etc. shows they were almost always scitzophrenic, or had a combination of multiple "disorders" to give them the sight they had.

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