Neural Pattern Change During Encoding of a Narrative Predicts Retrospective Duration Estimates

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Journal Article

What mechanisms support our ability to estimate durations on the order of minutes? Behavioral studies in humans have shown that changes in contextual features lead to overestimation of past durations. Based on evidence that the medial temporal lobes and prefrontal cortex represent contextual features, we related the degree of fMRI pattern change in these regions with people’s subsequent duration estimates. After listening to a radio story in the scanner, participants were asked how much time had elapsed between pairs of clips from the story. Our ROI analyses found that duration estimates were correlated with the neural pattern distance between two clips at encoding in the right entorhinal cortex. Moreover, whole-brain searchlight analyses revealed a cluster spanning the right anterior temporal lobe. Our findings provide convergent support for the hypothesis that retrospective time judgments are driven by ’drift’ in contextual representations supported by these regions.