Jennifer Coull Scientific Director of the MRI-INT imaging centre -Laboratoire de Neurosciences Cognitives (UMR 7291) Fédération 3C Aix-Marseille Université & CNRS, Marseille, FranceJennifer CoullScientific Director of the MRI-INT imaging centre -Laboratoire de Neurosciences Cognitives (UMR 7291) Fédération 3C Aix-Marseille Université & CNRS, Marseille, France
Visualising time in the brain, by Jenny Coull
Functional neuroimaging techniques have consistently identified a network of regions, including Supplementary Motor Area, basal ganglia, and prefrontal cortex, that are activated when participants make judgements about the duration of currently unfolding events. But why should the perception of duration be represented in regions of the brain more traditionally involved in motor function? One possibility is that we learn about time through action in childhood, potentially explaining why it has come to be represented in motor circuits of the adult brain. Yet duration judgements are not the only way of measuring how accurately time is perceived. Being able to predict when relevant events are likely to occur allows us to orient attentional resources to the predicted moment in time, thereby optimising performance. Indeed, speeded response times to temporally predictable events may actually provide a more suitable method for studying timing in cognitively fragile populations. In contrast to duration judgement tasks, the performance benefits of temporal predictability consistently activate left inferior parietal cortex. These neuroanatomical differences in duration judgement versus temporal prediction paradigms reflect distinct functional mechanisms for processing time.
Jennifer Coull, CNRS CRHC (Scopus h−index 41), studied for a PhD in the human psychopharmacology of attention and arousal at the University of Cambridge. She then spent seven years at the Functional Imaging Laboratory at UCL in London where her interest in temporal aspects of attention began. A move to Marseille allowed her to pursue an interest in timing more generally, and she was recruited to the CNRS in 2005. Her work has focused on the neuroscience of timing for over 20 years, and incorporates neuroimaging, experimental psychology, psychopharmacology and developmental techniques. She is currently Scientific Director of the MRI-INT imaging centre in Marseille.