PhD theses

We aimed to list here the PhD thesis reports related to timing. They are a good way to get a synthetic state of the art on a given topic. The objective is to offer both a platform bringing together this material as well as an opportunity for early-career researchers to promote their work.

If you wish to add your own thesis here, please fill this form.

Duration

Role of Intention and Prediction in Time Perception
Author: Mukesh Makwana      Supervisor: Narayanan Srinivasan      Date: 2018
Keywords: Intention, Intentional action, duration perception, intentional binding, prediction, self & time perception

Abstract

Intention and prediction are fundamental processes that influence our perception and govern our actions, but whether they also influence our sense of time is not well established. This thesis investigates the role of intention and prediction in time perception, and attempts to elucidate their underlying mechanisms. Results using temporal bisection task revealed that when intended outcomes are obtained it lead to intention-induced temporal expansion (IITE). This effect is not observed for outcomes based on instructions or cues. The IITE effect was found to be sensitive for both temporal contiguity (delay between action and outcome) and action-outcome contingency (how reliably an action predicts the specific outcome). For instance, IITE was present for short action-outcome delay (250ms, 500ms) but not for longer delay (1000ms). Likewise, IITE was present only for zero and positive (+0.5) action-outcome contingency but not for negative (-0.5) contingency. These findings point toward underlying commonalities between IITE and intentional binding (which also has a similar time course and present mainly for intentional actions). IITE refers to the temporal expansion of the outcome, whereas intentional binding refers to the temporal compression of the action-outcome interval. Even though both IITE and intentional binding are temporal illusions associated with intentional actions, a common mechanism to explain them in single paradigm is still lacking. Towards the above aim, an “Onset shifting” model has been proposed, which suggests that due to intentional pre-activation the intended outcome is processed faster and reaches awareness earlier compared to unintended outcome. This earlier shifting of onset of intended outcome (but not cued outcome) explains both the temporal expansion of the outcome duration as well as the temporal compression of the action-outcome interval. Further studies were performed to reveal the underlying mechanisms involved in these opposing temporal illusions associated with intentional actions and evaluate the predictions of “Onset shifting” model. The model was mainly evaluated in terms of i) how intention influences the internal clock model, and ii) whether intention speeds up perceptual processing. Results using magnitude estimation and reaction time task revealed that intention expands perceived time by influencing the switch latency rather than pacemaker speed and enhances the perceptual processing of the intended stimuli so that it reaches awareness earlier compared to unintended stimuli. The next study directly tested the influence of intention-based and instruction-based activation on intentional binding. As predicted by the “Onset shifting” model there was more temporal compression (stronger IB) of the action-outcome interval, for intended outcomes compared to unintended outcomes, whereas no such effect was observed in case of cue-based or instruction-based outcomes. The proposed model successfully explains the two opposing temporal illusions using a common framework. In the above studies, instruction-based outcome consistently failed to influence time perception significantly compared to intention-based outcome. There is a need to understand the difference between intention-based activation and instruction-based activation. A prominent difference is that intention-based activation is associated with self, while instruction-based activation is externally triggered and is not associated with self. Thus, the next study investigated whether self-association influences time perception and perceptual processing. That is, whether associating stimuli with self- would influence its processing and temporal shifts. Results showed that when a stimulus was associated with self, participants detected it faster and there was more temporal compression (stronger intentional binding) for self-associated stimuli compared to friend- or other-associated stimuli. The study demonstrated the importance of self-association and this may be the root cause behind the perceptual effects of intentions and intentional outcomes. In summary, the present thesis not only demonstrates that intention influences time perception and is sensitive to both temporal contiguity and sensorimotor contingency, but also proposes “onset shifting” model to explain the opposing temporal illusions in a common framework. Moreover, the predictions of this model and the role of self in such temporal illusions were tested in several experiments. These findings have profound implications for the theories of time perception and intentional binding and the need to incorporate volitional aspects in theories of time perception.

 

The Psychological Investigation of Subjective Time – New concepts and Contemporary Research Methods
Author: Sven Thoenes      Supervisor: Heiko Hecht      Date: 2017
Keywords: time perception, temporal processing, depression, schizophrenia, counting, interpersonal, mental time line

Abstract

In contrast to physical (objective) time, the subjective representation or perception of time is influenced by various factors. For example, in everyday life, humans perceive time to pass slower or faster depending on the situational context, and this impression may lead to an over- or underestimation of duration. Based on five sub-projects, the present work investi- gates several different phenomena in the field of subjective time. The first two sub-projects (meta-analytical reviews) focused on time perception in clinical populations. The results indicate that time passes less quickly for depressive patients. Judgments of duration, however, do not differ between patients and healthy control subjects. Patients with schizophrenia show a strong increase in the variability of their duration judgments, whereas mean duration estimates do not differ between patients and controls. In sub-projects three and five, I investigated whether subjective time can by influenced by (subtle) interpersonal cues. The results indicate rather weak effects of gaze direction on duration judgments and the spatialized representation of time (mental time lines). Sub-project four comprised two experiments on the effects of chronometric counting on the production of time intervals. Interestingly, while productions became less variable (more precise), the accuracy of time productions did not benefit from counting. Beyond the specific foci of the different sub-projects, the results from the present work approach some fundamental aspects of subjective time. Based on the meta- analytical review of time perception in depressive patients, factors that influence the subjective passage of time do not necessarily affect the perception of duration. Therefore, passage and duration need to be conceptualized as disentangled temporal dimensions. The concept of passing time may be more closely related to the concept of a mental time than to the concept of duration. The meta-analytical review on time perception in patients with schizophrenia and the experiments on the effects of counting on time productions show that measures of accuracy and measures of precision reflect independent aspects of subjective time, which need to be considered carefully in models of time perception and by future research.

 

The Role of Clock and Memory Processes in the Timing of Fear Cues in Humans
Author: Erich K. Grommet      Supervisor: Bruce L. Brown     Date: 2013
Keywords: temporal bisection, emotion

Abstract

Recent research on the effects of fear on timing has focused on two accounts proposed by Scalar Expectancy Theory (Church, 1984; Gibbon, 1977) for why the durations of fear stimuli are overestimated in comparison to the durations of neutral stimuli. One possibility is that fear serves as an arouser that increases the speed of a hypothetical internal clock. In this account, greater temporal overestimation of fear relative to neutral stimuli is predicted for longer stimulus durations relative to shorter stimulus durations. The other account is that fear increases attention to time, which results in organisms beginning to time fear-evoking stimuli sooner than they do neutral stimuli. In this possibility, the effect of fear does not interact with stimulus duration. Experiment 1 asked which of these two possibilities was the underlying mechanism of temporal overestimation of fear cues by manipulating emotion-evoking pictures (fear-evoking vs. neutral) across multiple duration ranges in the temporal bisection task. Larger effects of fear were observed at the longest duration range in comparison to the shortest duration range, supporting the arousal hypothesis. A related area that has been left relatively unexplored is the role that reference memory may play in the temporal overestimation of fear-evoking stimuli. Penney, Gibbon, and Meck’s (2000) memory mixing hypothesis proposes that overestimation is only possible in preparations that allow for recalled reference memories for stimulus durations to be mixed across conditions. Therefore, in the second experiment, we manipulated whether or not fear and neutral cues were presented within the same session, a condition that may be necessary for memory mixing to occur. Fear cues were overestimated relative to neutral cues within the session in which fear and neutral cues were both presented, but no effect of emotion was observed between the two sessions in which fear and neutral cues were presented separately.

 

Order and simultaneity

Implicit and explicit temporal order in the structuring of the conscious “now”
Author: Laetitia Grabot      Supervisor: Virginie van Wassenhove      Date: 2017
Keywords: temporal order perception, postdiction, neural oscillations

Abstract

Time in the brain can be considered both as a dimension structuring the organization of perception and as a conscious content: this confers to time a particular flavor that makes it a paramount object of study to understand the basis of human cognition. The present thesis aims at empirically determining to which extent the temporal ordering of information relates to the perceived order of events, both implicitly and explicitly. First, we investigated how time may become an explicit conscious content by showing that temporal order is a psychological bias, independent of attention. A follow-up magnetoencephalography study revealed that participants having a large order bias (i.e. their perceived synchrony corresponds to a large physical asynchrony) also showed the largest fluctuations in ongoing alpha power when perceived orders were contrasted for a given physical asynchrony. Alpha oscillations are herein argued to be a means to compensate for an individual internal bias. Second, we investigated how time implicitly shaped the perception of visual sequences by studying postdiction, i.e. when late inputs strikingly influence the representation of earlier information. In the Rabbit illusion, the intermediate flash of a visual sequence is spatially mislocalized due to the temporal regularity of the sequence. We showed that parieto-frontal regions were more activated following the presentation of the full sequence when the illusion was perceived. These results suggest that high-order regions may contribute to the postdictive reconstruction of a visual sequence, consistently with the hypothesis that the illusion is shaped by prior knowledge on a stimulus speed.

 

On the origin of visual temporal-order perception by means of attentional selection
Author: Jan Tünnermann      Supervisor: Ingrid Scharlau      Date: 2016
Keywords: temporal order, temporal attention

Abstract

The distribution of visual attention can influence the temporal perception of visual events. If two stimuli are shown in close temporal succession, the second one can be perceived as appearing first, if attention is directed toward it. This phenomenon is known as “prior entry” and has a long history in perception research. However, important fundamental mechanisms that drive the phenomenon were unknown until recently. For instance, how the acceleration of attended and deceleration of unattended stimuli in their processing combine to prior entry was unknown. The cause for this and similar shortcomings are limitations in the methods typically applied in temporal-order judgment (TOJ) research. Importantly, the methods lack strong theories that describe the fundamental encoding processes in TOJs. In this work, a strong theory of attention-biased encoding, TVA (Theory of Visual Attention) is used to model TOJs. In several experiments, the fundamental open questions regarding the perception of temporal order were answered using TVA-based models. For example, the results show that prior entry arises from equipotent speedups and slowdowns of attended and unattended stimuli, respectively. However, the slowdown component is of greater importance for the bias manifested in the prior-entry effect. Another result of this thesis is the quantitative description of the strong effect of peripheral cues in TOJs, which is in part caused by cue-target confusions on the encoding level.

 

Rhythm and sequence

Evaluation and training of rhythmic skills via new technologies
Author: Valentin Bégel      Supervisor: Simone Dalla Bella      Date: 2017
Keywords: Beat perception, synchronization

Abstract

Humans are highly skilled in processing temporal information. This is particularly visible in our compelling sense of rhythm that manifests in our tendency to move to the beat of music. Deliberately or spontaneously, we have a tendency to clap our hands, tap our feet, or dance with music. These skills are sustained by a complex neuronal network involving auditory regions (auditory cortex, superior temporal gyrus), motor and pre-motor areas (basal ganglia, motor and pre-motor cortices), as well as motor coordination regions (e.g., the cerebellum). However, rhythm skills can be disrupted in neurological diseases like Parkinson’s disease or in neuro-developmental diseases such as dyslexia. Rhythm deficits are associated with movement and cognitive disorders. Another form of rhythm disability is beat deafness, a specific condition in which healthy individuals encounter particular difficulties in synchronizing to the beat. In this dissertation, I aim at addressing two questions. First, is it possible to extend our knowledge of inter-individual differences to rhythm skills in order to better understand,mechanisms underlying rhythmic processing with a systematic tool? Second, can rhythm skills be trained in order to improve the associated motor and cognitive domains in patient populations revealing rhythm disorders? In the first part of the experimental section, I used the Battery for the Assessment of Auditory Sensorimotor and Timing Abilities (BAASTA) to systematically test and characterize subjects’ perceptual and sensorimotor timing skills. I found that the results of some tasks were highly correlated with the ones of other tasks and that, on the contrary, some tasks were totally independent from each other. This reveals that the battery can discriminate between tasks involving different and common mechanisms. In a further study, 20 healthy adults were submitted twice to BAASTA at a two-week interval. The performance in most of the tasks remained stable at retest. Finally, BAASTA was used in beat-deaf individuals. I showed that two individuals performed poorly on rhythm perception tasks, such as detecting or estimating whether a metronome is aligned to the beat of the music or not (Beat Alignment Test [BAT]). Yet, they could tap to the beat of the same stimuli. The fact that synchronization to a beat can occur in the presence of poor perception is reported for the first time in this study. On top of that, beat-deaf participants benefited similarly to controls from a regular temporal pattern (implicit timing) in a task in which they had to respond as fast as possible to a different target pitch after a sequence of standard tones. In the second part of the experimental section, I present a serious game for training rhythmic skills (Rhythm Workers) designed during the doctorate. I developed a progressive rhythm training protocol with stimuli varying in rhythmic difficulty. I conducted a proof-of concept pilot study on 20 individuals who played the game for 15 days. Participants in the experimental groups showed high compliance and motivation in playing the game. Encouraging results were found on the evolution of their rhythmic skills, as tested with the BAT taken from BAASTA that was submitted to the participants before and after the training. In sum, in this dissertation contributed to the development of tools for the assessment and training of rhythmic skills. This enabled us to design studies to better understand rhythm processing mechanisms and to pave the way for the use of rhythm games in cognitive and motor remediation and rehabilitation.

 

Temporal attention

On the origin of visual temporal-order perception by means of attentional selection
Author: Jan Tünnermann      Supervisor: Ingrid Scharlau      Date: 2016
Keywords: temporal order, temporal attention

Abstract

The distribution of visual attention can influence the temporal perception of visual events. If two stimuli are shown in close temporal succession, the second one can be perceived as appearing first, if attention is directed toward it. This phenomenon is known as “prior entry” and has a long history in perception research. However, important fundamental mechanisms that drive the phenomenon were unknown until recently. For instance, how the acceleration of attended and deceleration of unattended stimuli in their processing combine to prior entry was unknown. The cause for this and similar shortcomings are limitations in the methods typically applied in temporal-order judgment (TOJ) research. Importantly, the methods lack strong theories that describe the fundamental encoding processes in TOJs. In this work, a strong theory of attention-biased encoding, TVA (Theory of Visual Attention) is used to model TOJs. In several experiments, the fundamental open questions regarding the perception of temporal order were answered using TVA-based models. For example, the results show that prior entry arises from equipotent speedups and slowdowns of attended and unattended stimuli, respectively. However, the slowdown component is of greater importance for the bias manifested in the prior-entry effect. Another result of this thesis is the quantitative description of the strong effect of peripheral cues in TOJs, which is in part caused by cue-target confusions on the encoding level.

 

Music Listening, Music Therapy, Phenomenology and Neuroscience
Author: Erik Christensen      Supervisor: Lars Ole Bonde      Date: 2012
Keywords: Music listening, Musical time, Musical space, Phenomenology, Music therapy, Neuroscience

Abstract

The thesis investigates music listening, music phenomenology and neuroscience related to music therapy. Parts of a previous publication, The Musical Timespace (1996), are included. Music phenomenology Criteria for phenomenological investigation are proposed, and the approaches of three important authors in music phenomenology are compared. Thomas Clifton paves the way for the phenomenological exploration of time and space in music. Lawrence Ferrara designs a practical method for phenomenological description. Don Ihde devises ground-breaking methods for the phenomenological investigation of sound. Music therapy research applies variations of the method proposed by Lawrence Ferrara, in order to permit phenomenological descriptions of music and music therapy sessions. The philosophy of Don Ihde constitutes a basis for the development of experimental listening, a novel method for the phenomenological investigation of music. The neurosciences and music The outcome of four international conferences on the neurosciences and music is discussed and validated on the basis of analyses of research procedures and results, and noteworthy studies are highlighted. The Musical Timespace 2012 In consequence of findings in auditory science, parts of the text in The Musical Timespace (1996) have been omitted, resulting in a concise version of the book. The concise version represents an investigation of the experienced musical time and musical space and the listening dimensions in music. Five musical properties are considered the basic listening dimensions in music; intensity, timbre, pitch, movement and pulse. Present Moments: A new GIM program A collaborative research project has resulted in the design of a new program for Guided Imagery and Music Therapy, based on music from the 20th and 21th Centuries by Bartok, Corigliano, Messiaen, Tavener, Pärt and Tormis. Subcortical and cortical processing of music in the brain Descriptions of the auditory system in relation to the general brain functions clarify the neural basis for music listening. A novel experiment in neuroimaging, which documents the brain’s responses to a complete piece of music, is reported. Embodiment Investigations of embodiment in different philosophical and scientific disciplines are reported, including forms of vitality and the effects of neurotransmitters in the brain and the body. A review of the attempts at establishing neurophenomenology as a new research paradigm leads to the conclusion that the integration of the first-person perspective of phenomenology and the third-person perspective of neuroscience remains an unfinished project.

 

Time consciousness

The Psychological Investigation of Subjective Time – New concepts and Contemporary Research Methods
Author: Sven Thoenes      Supervisor: Heiko Hecht      Date: 2017
Keywords: time perception, temporal processing, depression, schizophrenia, counting, interpersonal, mental time line

Abstract

In contrast to physical (objective) time, the subjective representation or perception of time is influenced by various factors. For example, in everyday life, humans perceive time to pass slower or faster depending on the situational context, and this impression may lead to an over- or underestimation of duration. Based on five sub-projects, the present work investi- gates several different phenomena in the field of subjective time. The first two sub-projects (meta-analytical reviews) focused on time perception in clinical populations. The results indicate that time passes less quickly for depressive patients. Judgments of duration, however, do not differ between patients and healthy control subjects. Patients with schizophrenia show a strong increase in the variability of their duration judgments, whereas mean duration estimates do not differ between patients and controls. In sub-projects three and five, I investigated whether subjective time can by influenced by (subtle) interpersonal cues. The results indicate rather weak effects of gaze direction on duration judgments and the spatialized representation of time (mental time lines). Sub-project four comprised two experiments on the effects of chronometric counting on the production of time intervals. Interestingly, while productions became less variable (more precise), the accuracy of time productions did not benefit from counting. Beyond the specific foci of the different sub-projects, the results from the present work approach some fundamental aspects of subjective time. Based on the meta- analytical review of time perception in depressive patients, factors that influence the subjective passage of time do not necessarily affect the perception of duration. Therefore, passage and duration need to be conceptualized as disentangled temporal dimensions. The concept of passing time may be more closely related to the concept of a mental time than to the concept of duration. The meta-analytical review on time perception in patients with schizophrenia and the experiments on the effects of counting on time productions show that measures of accuracy and measures of precision reflect independent aspects of subjective time, which need to be considered carefully in models of time perception and by future research.

 

Implicit and explicit temporal order in the structuring of the conscious “now”
Author: Laetitia Grabot      Supervisor: Virginie van Wassenhove      Date: 2017
Keywords: temporal order perception, postdiction, neural oscillations

Abstract

Time in the brain can be considered both as a dimension structuring the organization of perception and as a conscious content: this confers to time a particular flavor that makes it a paramount object of study to understand the basis of human cognition. The present thesis aims at empirically determining to which extent the temporal ordering of information relates to the perceived order of events, both implicitly and explicitly. First, we investigated how time may become an explicit conscious content by showing that temporal order is a psychological bias, independent of attention. A follow-up magnetoencephalography study revealed that participants having a large order bias (i.e. their perceived synchrony corresponds to a large physical asynchrony) also showed the largest fluctuations in ongoing alpha power when perceived orders were contrasted for a given physical asynchrony. Alpha oscillations are herein argued to be a means to compensate for an individual internal bias. Second, we investigated how time implicitly shaped the perception of visual sequences by studying postdiction, i.e. when late inputs strikingly influence the representation of earlier information. In the Rabbit illusion, the intermediate flash of a visual sequence is spatially mislocalized due to the temporal regularity of the sequence. We showed that parieto-frontal regions were more activated following the presentation of the full sequence when the illusion was perceived. These results suggest that high-order regions may contribute to the postdictive reconstruction of a visual sequence, consistently with the hypothesis that the illusion is shaped by prior knowledge on a stimulus speed.

 

Music Listening, Music Therapy, Phenomenology and Neuroscience
Author: Erik Christensen      Supervisor: Lars Ole Bonde      Date: 2012
Keywords: Music listening, Musical time, Musical space, Phenomenology, Music therapy, Neuroscience

Abstract

The thesis investigates music listening, music phenomenology and neuroscience related to music therapy. Parts of a previous publication, The Musical Timespace (1996), are included. Music phenomenology Criteria for phenomenological investigation are proposed, and the approaches of three important authors in music phenomenology are compared. Thomas Clifton paves the way for the phenomenological exploration of time and space in music. Lawrence Ferrara designs a practical method for phenomenological description. Don Ihde devises ground-breaking methods for the phenomenological investigation of sound. Music therapy research applies variations of the method proposed by Lawrence Ferrara, in order to permit phenomenological descriptions of music and music therapy sessions. The philosophy of Don Ihde constitutes a basis for the development of experimental listening, a novel method for the phenomenological investigation of music. The neurosciences and music The outcome of four international conferences on the neurosciences and music is discussed and validated on the basis of analyses of research procedures and results, and noteworthy studies are highlighted. The Musical Timespace 2012 In consequence of findings in auditory science, parts of the text in The Musical Timespace (1996) have been omitted, resulting in a concise version of the book. The concise version represents an investigation of the experienced musical time and musical space and the listening dimensions in music. Five musical properties are considered the basic listening dimensions in music; intensity, timbre, pitch, movement and pulse. Present Moments: A new GIM program A collaborative research project has resulted in the design of a new program for Guided Imagery and Music Therapy, based on music from the 20th and 21th Centuries by Bartok, Corigliano, Messiaen, Tavener, Pärt and Tormis. Subcortical and cortical processing of music in the brain Descriptions of the auditory system in relation to the general brain functions clarify the neural basis for music listening. A novel experiment in neuroimaging, which documents the brain’s responses to a complete piece of music, is reported. Embodiment Investigations of embodiment in different philosophical and scientific disciplines are reported, including forms of vitality and the effects of neurotransmitters in the brain and the body. A review of the attempts at establishing neurophenomenology as a new research paradigm leads to the conclusion that the integration of the first-person perspective of phenomenology and the third-person perspective of neuroscience remains an unfinished project.

 

Time perception and neuropsychiatric disorders

The Psychological Investigation of Subjective Time – New concepts and Contemporary Research Methods
Author: Sven Thoenes      Supervisor: Prof. Heiko Hecht      Date: 2017
Keywords: time perception, temporal processing, depression, schizophrenia, counting, interpersonal, mental time line

Abstract

In contrast to physical (objective) time, the subjective representation or perception of time is influenced by various factors. For example, in everyday life, humans perceive time to pass slower or faster depending on the situational context, and this impression may lead to an over- or underestimation of duration. Based on five sub-projects, the present work investi- gates several different phenomena in the field of subjective time. The first two sub-projects (meta-analytical reviews) focused on time perception in clinical populations. The results indicate that time passes less quickly for depressive patients. Judgments of duration, however, do not differ between patients and healthy control subjects. Patients with schizophrenia show a strong increase in the variability of their duration judgments, whereas mean duration estimates do not differ between patients and controls. In sub-projects three and five, I investigated whether subjective time can by influenced by (subtle) interpersonal cues. The results indicate rather weak effects of gaze direction on duration judgments and the spatialized representation of time (mental time lines). Sub-project four comprised two experiments on the effects of chronometric counting on the production of time intervals. Interestingly, while productions became less variable (more precise), the accuracy of time productions did not benefit from counting. Beyond the specific foci of the different sub-projects, the results from the present work approach some fundamental aspects of subjective time. Based on the meta- analytical review of time perception in depressive patients, factors that influence the subjective passage of time do not necessarily affect the perception of duration. Therefore, passage and duration need to be conceptualized as disentangled temporal dimensions. The concept of passing time may be more closely related to the concept of a mental time than to the concept of duration. The meta-analytical review on time perception in patients with schizophrenia and the experiments on the effects of counting on time productions show that measures of accuracy and measures of precision reflect independent aspects of subjective time, which need to be considered carefully in models of time perception and by future research.

 

Time and conditioning/learning

The Rescorla-Wagner Drift-Diffusion Model
Author: Andre Luzardo      Supervisor: Eduardo Alonso      Date: 2017
Keywords: timing, conditioning

Abstract

Computational models of classical conditioning have made significant contributions to the theoretic understanding of associative learning, yet they still struggle when the temporal aspects of conditioning are taken into account. Interval timing models have contributed a rich variety of time representations and provided accurate predictions for the timing of responses, but they usually have little to say about associative learning. In this thesis we present a unified model of conditioning and timing that is based on the influential Rescorla-Wagner conditioning model and the more recently developed Timing Drift-Diffusion model. We test the model by simulating 11 experimental phenomena and show that it can provide an adequate account for 9, and a partial account for the other 2. We argue that the model can account for more phenomena in the chosen set than these other similar in scope models: CSCTD, MS-TD, Learning to Time and Modular Theory. A comparison and analysis of the mechanisms in these models is provided, with a focus on the types of time representation and associative learning rule used.