The Importance of Timing in the Brain

The Importance of Timing in the Brain

How many of you can keep time well? I’m not talking about good time management (although I certainly know how important that is!), but being able to measure time intervals. Many of my patients often struggle with this skill, which is why I’m want to share this exciting new article with you from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

But first, let’s take a step back. Why is good time measurement important? Yes, it can help us with musical skills – clapping on beat, playing the piano or rocking the drums. But it’s also critical for the simplest of skills, such as swinging a tennis racket, throwing a ball or even simply holding a conversation and paying attention.

And now, there’s new research by MIT neuroscientists, who have discovered how neurons in one part of the brain measure time intervals and how they can be accurately reproduced.

In a nutshell, these neuroscientists discovered that the lateral intraparietal cortex (LIP) represents elapsed time. Firing patterns of neuron in LIP can coordinate sensory and motor aspects of timing, and as a certain task is repeated many times, people are able to eventually accurately measure these intervals.

Here’s an excerpt from the article:

“From these studies, [Jazayeri] discovered that people do not simply measure an interval and then reproduce it. Rather, after measuring an interval they combine that measurement, which is imprecise, with their prior knowledge of what the interval could have been. This prior knowledge, which builds up as they repeat the task many times, allows people to reproduce the interval more accurately.”


This is a great bit of research that might help you better understand how our programs work, such as Interactive Metronome  and In-Time. You can read the whole piece here: