Time, Timing and Neural Dynamics
Dean BUONOMANO, professor of psychology and neurobiology at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)
The ability to tell time, represent and encode temporal information, and use past experiences to predict the future, are among the most fundamental computations the brain performs. But how do networks of neurons tell time and encode temporal information in a flexible manner? Precisely because of the importance of time, we argue that most neural circuits are capable of temporal computations. But in contrast to the clocks on our wrists that rely on the same mechanism to tell time across a wide range of scales, the brain engages many different mechanisms and circuits to tell time. We and others have proposed that on the scale of seconds timing relies on neural population clocks: time-varying patterns of neural activity that emerge from the dynamics of recurrent neural circuits. More generally, we propose that such dynamic regimes represent a fundamental computational strategy in the brain.