Research: Your Brain Has Two Clocks

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One of those clocks relies on our memories of past experiences and the other on rhythm.  They are both critical to our ability to navigate and enjoy the world and our surroundings.

You have to be able to calculate when you move, anticipate the timing of future events, and adjust your attention and actions when needed.

According to a new UC Berkeley research, the neural networks that support each of these clocks are split between two different areas of the brain depending on what you need to accomplish.

Timing Is Not A United Process

It doesn't matter if it's music, sports, speech or allocating attention, the study suggests that timing is not a united process.

There are two different ways you can make temporal predictions and they depend on different areas of the brain, according to lead author Assaf Breska, a postdoctoral researcher in neuroscience at UC Berkeley.

When working together, both brain systems will allow you to exist at the moment and anticipate the future as well. Both Breska and Richard Ivry a UC Berkeley neuroscientist studied anticipatory timing strength and deficits of people with Parkinson's and people with cerebellar degeneration.

It revealed that if one of these neutral clocks is not working properly, the other will step in. The study also revealed that the context of neurological patients that are impaired can adjust their surroundings to interact better in the world.

The brain uses two different mechanisms for anticipatory timing which challenges theories that a single brain system handles all our needs.  Results from their studies suggest there are at least two different ways the brain has evolved to anticipate the future.

The rhythm-based system is sensitive to periodic events such as inherent in speech and music.  An interval system offers a more general anticipatory ability that is sensitive to temporal regularities even in the absence of a rhythmic signal.