Sunday, December 13, 2009

Time is in the Mind

A direct link to the above video is at

A direct link to the above video is at

The above video discusses some experiments by neuroscientist David Eagleman of the University of Houston, looking into how different situations alter our perception of time, and how high-risk situations are particularly common for people to come away with the feeling that "it was as if everything went into slow motion". What is the relationship between consciousness and the perception of time?

Here's a link to a recent article in New Scientist magazine that includes discussions of Dr. Eagleman's work, called "Timewarp: How Your Brain Creates the Fourth Dimension". Let me quote a few paragraphs from this piece, which was written by Douglas Fox:

...Eagleman wanted to know whether the brain's clock actually accelerates - making external events appear abnormally slow in comparison with the brain's workings - or whether the slo-mo is just an artifact of our memory.

It's just one of many mysteries concerning how we experience time that we are only now beginning to crack. "Time," says Eagleman, "is much weirder than we think it is."

By understanding the mechanisms of our brain's clock, Eagleman and others hope to learn ways of temporarily resetting its tick. This might improve our mental speed and reaction times. What's more, since time is crucial to our perception of causality, a faulty internal clock might also explain the delusions suffered by people with schizophrenia.
There's a few things I find very useful about what's being said above. First, we return to the old bugaboo about my way of visualizing the fourth spatial dimension and how that relates to "time" as being one of its two possible directions. In the context of the above article, saying "your brain creates the fourth dimension" may seem like a confirmation of the ideas I'm promoting, but the critics who say that the fourth spatial dimension and "time" are two completely different things certainly show us that much controversy about all this remains.

Which leads me to the other significant phrase: "time is crucial to our perception of causality". This, for me sums up quite neatly the difference between the fourth and the fifth dimension. When we look back at the chain of events that led to "now", we perceive that there was only one path, and that is because of the limits of the fourth spatial dimension. I would say that in order for us to be able to conceptualize the multiple paths that extend before us from our current "now" (and likewise, the multiple paths that potentially could have gotten us to this "now" we find ourselves in), we need to think beyond the comparatively simple limits of the fourth dimension.

In other words, causality is the key to understanding a particular chain of events that connect from one position in the fourth dimension to another, and probability is the key to understanding how those two points have multiple connecting paths in the fifth dimension.

Let's look at one more paragraph from the article:
Perhaps the most fundamental question neuroscientists are investigating is whether our perception of the world is continuous or a series of discrete snapshots like frames on a film strip. Understand this, and maybe we can explain how the healthy brain works out the chronological order of the myriad events bombarding our senses, and how this can become warped to alter our perception of time.
This is an idea I keep returning to: our reality is not continuous, despite what our common sense may seem to tell us. Whether we're talking about the planck-unit-sized "atoms of spacetime" that loop quantum gravity tells us our reality is made from, or if we're talking about the illusion that the fifth dimension and above are "curled up at the planck length" (an idea from string theory) because we only experience the fifth dimension one planck frame at a time, the same conclusion can be drawn. And with this article, we see interesting new evidence of an idea we've talked about before, that the brain itself is also operating at a certain number of "frames per second" rather than in a continuous undivided stream, and that ties into all of my ongoing ramblings about the dimensions in very useful ways.

Do you remember Dr. Stuart Hameroff and his theories showing that consciousness works at a certain number of "bings" per second? We talked about this in Music and the Dance of Creativity, Boredom and Consciousness 2, and Boredom and Consciousness 3. As mentioned at the end of our first quote above,this leads us to some fascinating ideas about the relationship between this frame rate and what happens when this frame rate is out of sync with the body. We'll talk about this more in our next few entries, Time and Schizophrenia, Consciousness in Frames per Second, and Time and Music.

Enjoy the journey!

Rob Bryanton

Next: Time and Schizophrenia


Mariana Soffer said...

Hi Rob, how are you?
Very interesting post, time is such a fascinating topic, along with all that is around it.
I wanted to show you a work from a guy about the internal perception of time, and the continuous vs discrete perception of it, I think it is very interesting this experiment that he did.
The url is:

"I documented their traditional whale hunt with a plodding sequence of 3,214 photographs, taken at five-minute intervals for seven days, and at even higher frequencies in moments of high adrenaline. This established a constant “photographic heartbeat” that more or less matched the changing pace of my own heartbeat, and which recorded every moment of the hunt...."

Hope you re doing great rob, take care.

osdipromatas said...

Between 0 and 1 there is infinital numbers. 0 -- infinite - 1.Than time does not exists. everithing is matter of energy changes,entropy estates.The key is energy = velocity, as more velocity more you can see the energy frames.Or some sort like this,as a world as matrix.

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