Nature Reviews Neuroscience 14, 217-223 (March 2013) | doi:10.1038/nrn3452

OpinionThe inner sense of time: how the brain creates a representation of duration

Marc Wittmann1  About the author


A large number of competing models exist for how the brain creates a representation of time. However, several human and animal studies point to 'climbing neural activation' as a potential neural mechanism for the representation of duration. Neurophysiological recordings in animals have revealed how climbing neural activation that peaks at the end of a timed interval underlies the processing of duration, and, in humans, climbing neural activity in the insular cortex, which is associated with feeling states of the body and emotions, may be related to the cumulative representation of time.

Author affiliations

  1. Marc Wittmann is at the Institute for Frontier Areas of Psychology and Mental Health, Department of Empirical and Analytical Psychophysics, Wilhelmstr. 3a, 79098 Freiburg, Germany.

Published online 13 February 2013