WG4 Details

TP in mental health, developmental disorders, and neurology

In order to advance the understanding of TP, it is essential toinvestigate the existence of specialized brain systems for representing time and the specific structures involved. The sensitivity (i.e., accurate timing) and complexity (i.e., all the possible processes involved) of this issue, however, renders TP an aspect of human and animal perception that has been difficult to study directly, despite the recent advances in modelling, animal experimentation, and imaging techniques.

Research to date has provided strong evidence that specific structures in the human brain play a role in the processing of temporal information (e.g., basal ganglia, premotor and motor cortex, superior temporal gyrus, inferior prefrontal cortices). The cerebellum, for example, is argued to be involved in a variety of tasks such as speech perception/production, where the timing of brief intervals is an important component. However, it is not yet clear whether or not the cerebellum is involved only in the short-interval timing, or whether it covers a wide duration range. Recent evidence also showed that the parietal cortex is involved in the processing of temporal intervals. Studies of patients with right parietal stroke have shown decreased temporal order sensitivity for visual stimuli in the contralesional side of space. Such findings, suggest that the right parietal cortex may also play an important role in multisensory integration as a function of time and space.

Animal research on interval timing has developed substantially in the last 20-30 years, and many fundamental processes have been elucidated. However, the expanding body of data has also yielded exceptions to the rules, violations of properties, and therefore multiplication of theories. Animal research, allows accessing tools and techniques that cannot be easily applied to humans. However, as much as experimental parameters can impact the behavioural output, interpretation of neurobiological data is highly dependent on the procedures used. With the multiplicity of techniques already available and new ones to come, it is time to create a common network and database, pivot for future research. For this to be fruitful, it is crucial to cooperate at world-scale in order to profit from the diversity of multidisciplinary TP approaches on both humans and animals.

Understanding of TP is also critical in clinical populations. For example, neglect patients (i.e., patient fails to report/react to stimuli located in the space contralateral to the lesion) mainly show an impairment related to a spatial component of an event, however, neglect can also be observed in the temporal domain. Additionally, patients suffering from schizophrenia/depression/bipolar disorder experience a disorganized TP. Finally, in studies with dyslexic patients, a deficit in the processing of rapidly presented stimuli has been demonstrated. It seems therefore that other disorders (e.g., aphasia) may have a temporal component that has not been explored yet. Brain functional neuroimaging studies should contribute to investigate the interactions between TP and well-known neural networks involved in attention, memory, space perception or action.

Possible outcomes:

  1. An extensive review of the current state-of-the-art in neuroimaging and definition of the techniques (or fusion of those) appropriate for TP.
  2. In depth analysis and review of the proposed links between TP and well-known neural networks underlying attention, memory, language, space perception and action. We will take advantage of animal models for investigating the aspects that cannot be addressed in human participants.
  3. In-depth analysis and review of time distortions in various mental and developmental disorders and specific brain-injuries.
  4. Development of neurorehabilitation techniques and standardized TP tasks for inclusion in diagnostic neuropsychological batteries.