AUTHORS: Protopapa F, Hayashi MJ, Kulashekhar S, der Zwaag W, Battistella G, Murray MM, Kanai R, Bueti D

PLOS Biology, 17(3): , 2019


Time is a fundamental dimension of everyday experiences. We can unmistakably sense its passage and adjust our behavior accordingly. Despite its ubiquity, the neuronal mechanisms underlying the capacity to perceive time remains unclear. Here, in two experiments using ultra-high-field 7-Tesla functional magnetic resonance imaging, we show that in the medial premotor cortex of the human brain, neural units tuned to different durations are orderly mapped in contiguous portions of the cortical surface, so as to form chronomaps. The response of each portion in a chronomap is enhanced by preferred and neighboring durations and suppressed by non-preferred durations represented in distant portions of the map. These findings identify duration-sensitive tuning as a neural mechanism underlying the recognition of time and demonstrate for the first time that the representation of an abstract feature such as time can be instantiated by a topographical arrangement of duration-sensitive neural populations.

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