Time and space

The mindhacks blog had a posting on the connection between time and space perception. Here is the abstract of the paper discussed, ‘Prismatic Lenses Shift Time Perception’ by F Frassinetti etal.

“Previous studies have demonstrated the involvement of spatial codes in the representation of time and numbers. We took advantage of a well-known spatial modulation (prismatic adaptation) to test the hypothesis that the representation of time is spatially oriented from left to right, with smaller time intervals being represented to the left of larger time intervals. Healthy subjects performed a time-reproduction task and a time-bisection task, before and after leftward and rightward prismatic adaptation. Results showed that prismatic adaptation inducing a rightward orientation of spatial attention produced an overestimation of time intervals, whereas prismatic adaptation inducing a leftward shift of spatial attention produced an underestimation of time intervals. These findings not only confirm that temporal intervals are represented as horizontally arranged in space, but also reveal that spatial modulation of time processing most likely occurs via cuing of spatial attention, and that spatial attention can influence the spatial coding of quantity in different dimensions.”

I have thought it likely that the processes that are used for one type of perception are also used for any others that can be made to ‘fit’. Particularly, the hippocampus is part of a neural system adept at space and place perception/memory and it also seems to be doing the same for time. Why not for any and everything that we can map with location and direction: numbers, music, procedures etc? So high notes are high, low numbers are low (and to the left if that is the way we read), procedures move along a path, we move into the future and leave the past behind. Some postulate that we think this way because of our language, but it seems more likely that we talk this way because of how we perceive.

4 thoughts on “Time and space

  1. First of all is not like that because of language, I can tell you that cause I know it from jews that write upside down.
    Maybe time is also being processed by the hippocampus in the same way that space, but I was thinking that unlike going back has a total different implecation in time than in space. First you can’t go back in time and yes in space, second you can go back in time with your memories maybe, which is processed with other area than spacial movement is.

    JanetK: I agree and disagree. I think it is a bit of a chicken and egg problem. Do we perceive in a particular way because of our language or do we have our particular language metaphors because of how we perceive? I think both are true, back and forth. But at the bottom is the fact that time is not perceived in its own way but as a space metaphor – location and motion are perceived in a much more direct way than time and duration. The exact metaphor depends on the language/culture but not the idea that it is a metaphor.

  2. <p>The concepts of space and time are dual, yet not complete, as you need the notion of motion to reflect reality. Every object has boundaries in space time when it comes to this world and it also has its end contours and programmed in its interaction with its environment. So we all seem to live in a different spacetime that needs to be harmonized when we are to communicate, which is o problem for those living in what we call present, an ongoing term for all of us moving in one direction.<br />
    With the concept of movement you must have the concept of speed, then work or energy to be used, the basics of physics to describe this world, except for infinity, because infinity cannot be conceived with finite tools or measures. Space is two dimensional topologically, time is one dimensional, yet we can move in space in seven directions (six plus one for freeze, do not move). When an object does not move any longer it is dead, it has completed its life cycle. It is all about the law of identity. When you move , you move both in time and sapce, yet you can only see the movement in space, to register the movement in time (going to the end) you use an artiifical aid, a symbolic tool, like a clock.<br />
    Physicists defintion of time issomething that we measure with the help of a clock.</p>
    JanetK: Thank you for your comment. I think you are very right to point out the importance of movement. I believe that if an object is projected to the same spot on the retina that it soon disappears from sight. Of what importance would be location if there were no movement?
    In my posting, I was particularly concerned with how we perceive space and time rather than how we reason about it or physically measure it. Personally I think that space probably has more than three dimensions but I cannot experience more than three because of the nature of the brain’s way of dealing with space (place, grid, heading and border cells). I can imagine being able to do mathematics about a fourth dimension, or being able to measure it, but I cannot imagine being able to experience it.

    Thank you Janet.
    I cannot see shy we think that we live in three dimensions and time is the fourth. This does not seem right to me. Instead dimensions, we can speak of changing directions of moving in a straight line, usually in 2D, on a surface. The latest in Physics suggest that the universe is two dimensional, flat and I have a video lecture on that point in English. Anyway my interest is that the representation of knowledge or perception in the brain are likely to be “projected” in 2D and we have a limited buffer to keep certain number of objects in there for a short time. Therefore I am looking for a 2D representation of knowledge that may be displayed on a screen that after sufficient research may be used as a “mirror” of the internal working memory and the two can be aligned.
    Regards. Frank

    JanetK: A friend once climbed to the top of an old cathedral and looked down on the streets below. They were busy with people. He noticed that, of the hundreds of people he watched, none of them look up, not just in his direction but at anything above them. Only a handful seemed to look down. The way we correct perspective also seems to imply that, as you say, we are really more equipped to deal with two dimensions. The third dimension is there in our experience but it may be somewhat different. Now that you have brought it to my attention, I shall notice indications of a difference if/when I run across them. As far as real-reality is concerned, rather than our mental model of reality, I have to take my physics on trust. I am told by the knowledgeable that there is more likely to be more than 3 dimensions than just 3, although they differ on the number and nature of the extra dimensions.

  3. Very interesting what you say F, great.

    Janet, you might find this relevant for the study:
    “Retrieval of word meaning from the semantic system and its integration with context are often assumed to be shared by spoken and written words. How is modality-independent semantic processing manifested in the brain, spatially and temporally? Time-sensitive neuroimaging allows tracking of neural activation sequences. Use of semantically related versus unrelated word pairs or sentences ending with a semantically highly or less plausible word, in separate studies of the auditory and visual modality, has associated lexical-semantic analysis”


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *