Remember everything: at the Kurchatov Institute has expanded the horizons of time

Why for children time moves more slowly, and for adults — faster? Why in stressful situations we can remember everything? Answers or at least hypotheses to explain these difficult riddles of our brain, we received the National research center “Kurchatov Institute”. The recently developed equipment and software that can have each of the individual sense of time. Correspondent “MK” was one of those on whom the researchers tested the new system.

Вспомнить всё: в Курчатовском институте расширили горизонты времени

These two instruments, in principle, we are familiar with MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) and EEG (electroencephalograph). But few people know that together they allow high temporal resolution using EEG and high spatial resolution using tomography. Register here the rapid events occurring within milliseconds. For example, the new apparatus in patients with epilepsy manage to catch and track the start time of a seizure and pinpoint the localization of the source of epileptic activity. This is to ensure that doctors could produce a more focused surgical intervention in the brain have complex patients. Previously, it could not be anyone, now possible and already implemented in several Russian clinics.

The same relationship: the area of the brain and the time of occurrence of a particular mental reaction is important for determining a person’s sense of time. This is a new work of the laboratory of neuro-cognitive technologies complex of the Kurchatov nbics technologies that resemble natural ones on which its employees recently published a monograph.

Timing is one of the fundamental, — says a leading researcher complex, candidate of biological Sciences Vadim Ushakov. — Since childhood we begin to build a picture of the world and gradually find in surrounding reality more cause-and-effect relationships. For adequate perception of the world, there must be a time, separating the past from the present and the future, and also to understand that which implies. Of course, our main goal is to help people with pronounced deviations from the norm. For example, sometimes it happens that the person blurred temporal boundaries, and in reality, the events of the past intertwined with the present, or it seems that they will happen in the future. There are people who because of the lack of sense of time, confusing the present and events from the world of fantasies, dreams, fears, unrelated to reality. Of course, in such cases a professional help of psychiatrists, to try to separate the illusion from the real.

However, temporal boundaries, it is important to learn not only to deal with obvious pathologies, but also for the General understanding of the processes occurring in the brain.

We “Serkalem” sense of time

The logic of our actions is based on cause-effect relationships and the sense of time. But along with these internal feelings and connections in our brain, according to scientists, is very active the so-called mirror neuron system.

— There are neurons that reflect their view of the actions performed in time — joins the conversation, the colleague Ushakov, a young researcher, complex nbics technologies that resemble natural ones Sergey Kartashov. In mirror worlds, we must first lose all the events after which the brain will accept this type of behavior, and remember what he brought is good luck or bad luck. In the case of the latter the brain will reconsider the previously selected behavior and will try in the future to use a different path.

Mirror neurons are also involved in detecting intention of others, their thoughts, feelings and future actions, adds the researcher. — That someone sat down at the dinner table, and we understand that now he will eat. It tells us our mirror system, which, in a moment of contemplation of an action aktiviziruyutsya as if we do this action performed. If you see a crying person, we understand that he suffers because we have a mirror system that also activate as if we were suffering ourselves. This is what we call empathy. As we define good, evil people — it is enough for us to look at their face. To understand cats and dogs it’s harder for us because they are wired differently, and we can’t “mirror” them adequately.

But as mirror neurons associated with the sense of time?

Without this connection, we would not be able to perform a logical action. Because it seems that the thought came to get up, raise hand, etc., and we are doing this. In fact, before this action of the brain in hundredths of a second loses, it shapes our every gesture. He knows all in advance. And in advance he loses not only our actions, but also time intervals.

This is still a hypothesis, and at the Kurchatov Institute we decided to check: is there such a system of neurons that activates the sense of time in mind? And if so, where localized?

— Nobody asked such a question?

— To us it proved only that there are mirror neurons, says Kartashov. — It was established by Italian neurophysiologist Giacomo Rizzolatti. One day he forgot to turn off an electrode implanted into the brain of a monkey sitting motionless, and reached for a banana on her eyes. The program recorded the discharge, resulting in the animal’s brain at this moment. This discharge corresponded to an imaginary show of hands. That is, the monkey brain just “sketched” effect of the experimenter.

We aimed to establish an accurate connection of the mirror system with the perception of time. It was necessary to study how these systems are involved in the perception of time, over time and predicting how the brain crushes “quanta of time”. We first decided to check on the man.

Test “music box”

So, as one of the participants of the scientific experience acts as the correspondent “MK”. I’m put the EEG sensors and is loaded into the MRI machine. Those who passed inspection using the imager, you know how unpleasant sounds accompany this action. For those who were not, compare the sound with “music box”, which was planted by foreign agents of our KGB Paul Sinitsyna in the movie “blunder”. So if Paul (played by Michael Nozhkin) thought of a way for him to fend off political opponents, I’m under the knife whistling sounds, which are periodically alternated just knock, was simply to measure intervals of time. First, repeating short segments for other people by the sound of a finger pressing a special button. When these segments were 0,8–1,5–2 seconds, repeat was easy — I just caught the right rhythm. With increasing duration of time intervals repeats were worse. At least I thought so. When in front of me was the only screen with appearing and disappearing points (no role model) followed by the command operator, “Now try to define the intervals independently, reproducing the rhythm of the blinking dots at the memory. But in any case, do not consider, — playback time periods exclusively according to how you feel, and we are using the electroencephalogram and functional MRI data to try to determine the areas of your brain that are responsible for the drawing of temporary borders”.

Вспомнить всё: в Курчатовском институте расширили горизонты времени

The output that I got after one and a half hour stay in the MRI chamber, I was not too pleased — I made mistakes when performing tasks, and some data from further analysis it will be removed. I must admit that during the experiment I, as he tried to stay still for seconds fell into a dream — very lulling me monotonous “metronome” of the imager, which I eventually used.

— It’s okay — he reassured me after Vadim Ushakov. — We saw your “failures” — at this time the EEG showed corresponding changes in the rhythms of the brain. Frankly, we are surprised by this, because usually people involved in our experiment, can not sleep, they are in a state of stress.

Apparently, in my case affected a sleepless night writing a text, and a high level of trust to scientists. And yet you now can tell which zone was involved in my brain when counting periods of time?

— Yes, making a big pool of people, which includes you, we determined that the work was connected to the motor Association area, frontal departments — said the researcher. — Now our task is to examine the received data to determine, not only engaged in the work zones, but their causal relationships. Who was leading and who was slave.

— What does it do?

— Without an understanding of directional transmission signals we will not have a complete picture of the process. And he, as we said, we need to understand all our actions. For example, for text recognition. We hear individual letters, phrases, but the brain perceives it as a whole, so he somehow manages to tie all these disparate tools together, uniting them in time.

In some cases, our brain is capable of even before the mirror event and understand what will be said before it be spoken.

For example, we heard the command: “Drop!” The person immediately after just 80 milliseconds (!), activated motor area. But awareness of the steps in the speech structures of the brain comes only after 300 milliseconds. That is, our brain reacts to 200 milliseconds before the person.

What did you see on your computer, when I measured out the plots, lying in an MRI?

— Your whole brain, we scanned in such a way that received about 4 thousand volumes over time, each volume was composed of 140 thousand (!) its separate volume of about 8 cubic millimeters. This is a huge series of information, mainly digital, which will allow us to say than, for example, the mechanism of automatic rhythmic perception of time is different from the arbitrary, which depends only on the temporary “controller” sitting in your head. On your data and the results of other subjects, for example, we have shown that in the processes of measuring time intervals and monitoring the measuring time intervals are activated areas of the brain, including the network of “motor” mirror neuron.

Activity subjectively accelerates our time

— A healthy person can “pull” your sense of time? I said Ushakov.

— Perhaps it is. You’ve never heard of the quantum principle that can work our consciousness?

— Honestly, no.

— When we don’t have time to distinguish between the two events, and they merge into one for us. Imagine that you for visual perception are stimulus — some picture and then a bright flash of light. Then determine if you managed to identify both the stimulus. During this experiment it was found that the time interval between the stimuli is critical. In the case of very short intervals between stimuli (up to 20 milliseconds), the subject is only conscious of a flash of light, as a more spectacular event, which scored less bright. The longer was the interval between the stimuli, the clearer the subject could differentiate the two events. Thus, it is a very interesting conclusion: if quantum so we can perceive two stimuli in the experiment, it means that the world we perceive as our minds are simply not able to discern smaller events with space below 40-50 milliseconds.

— Amazing! So, theoretically, every second we miss sight of something important, some events, people, sounds? Maybe there, within 20 milliseconds, and hides from us some mysterious parallel world?

— Can’t say anything about a parallel world… it is Better to use different wording: with the help of the brain we see is not all and what the brain “wants” to show us, a kind of illusion of the world. Brain scanning frame-by-frame, he completes the picture of the world that events seemed continuous. This is especially evident in experiments with hypnosis.

But as, studies related to the improvement of attention, we showed, in any of the brain structures that could theoretically be implemented. If we can determine the border of the reference “quanta of time”, we may be able to influence its expansion, which will include even the fastest events in our reality.

This same mechanism can try to use to open a time window into the past, to scroll through all the minute events of our lives. People who have experienced a severe stress situation, say that at that moment like my life is flashing before my eyes. And it is not an exaggeration — people in extreme moments do in seconds in detail see the events of the past, starting from birth.

It turns out that the time for “gates of memory”, on the one hand, very arranged, all the causal relationships of our life Packed in a very small case. But we may at some moments to access the case and view all that is in it, and at once!

— What would that give us?

For example, to develop the ability to instant memorization of thousands of words, human faces. There are people with a photographic memory — I saw it once and remembered the whole situation in detail. It is believed that this may all be due to timing.

— There are still troubles me: the question is: why for some, time runs fast, for others slow? Why does it depend?

We think the neurons inside of us, there are no little creatures that give rise to our thoughts, — says Sergey. — And hence our perception of time depends on neurons: the faster they are discharged, passing information to each other in the neighboring areas of the brain, the faster it seems to us, time flows. That is, the subjective perception of time can influence normal metabolism.

— Heard another version of this. She says that in children, time flows longer because psychologically they do not recognize the borders of time, they have a vast life… But closer to the old man easier compares time intervals between them, measures time by decades, then pyatidesyatiletiya. The experience sometimes lost in vain time again teaches him that it is a very fleeting substance.

— Maybe age matters, but still, metabolism plays a paramount role. The richness of individual life experience allows an adult to perceive the brighter events, evaluating them from all sides (are involved different areas of the brain). The child, faced with a new phenomenon, compares it with fewer events. Rather, the subjective perception of speed of time influences the value of individual experience that we can draw per unit of time.

— More than once have found myself immersed in a job, I do not notice how time passes, will raise his head, and the window is already night.

— This happens when a person performs important for him to work in the allotted amount of time. Here plays the role of a healthy lobe of stress, which too can “accelerate” time.

In parting, the researchers of the Kurchatov Institute gave the readers of “MK” useful advice: you need to constantly feed the neurons new tasks that expand the worldview, teaching us anything. This is a way of training the brain. Scientists who have reached a very respectable age, but did not stop scientific activity, look much younger than their peers who have not bother with difficult tasks, and ceased to dream.


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