Processing of different temporal scales in the human brain

Rotem Monsa, Michael Peer, Shahar Arzy*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


While recalling life events, we reexperience events of different durations, ranging across varying temporal scales, from several minutes to years. However, the brain mechanisms underlying temporal cognition are usually investigated only in small-scale periods—milliseconds to minutes. Are the same neurocognitive systems used to organize memory at different temporal scales? Here, we asked participants to compare temporal distances (time elapsed) to personal events at four different temporal scales (hour, day, week, and month) under fMRI. Cortical activity showed temporal scale sensitivity at the medial and lateral parts of the parietal lobe, bilaterally. Activity at the medial parietal cortex also showed a gradual progression from large-to small-scale processing, along a posterior–anterior axis. Interestingly, no sensitivity was found along the hippocampal long axis. In the medial scale-sensitive region, most of the voxels were preferentially active for the larger scale (month), and in the lateral region, scale selectivity was higher for the smallest scale (hour). These results demonstrate how scale-selective activity characterizes autobiographical memory processing and may provide a basis for understanding how the human brain processes and integrates experiences across timescales in a hierarchical manner. ■.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)2087-2102
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Cognitive Neuroscience
Issue number11
StatePublished - 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank Professor Virginie van Wassenhove (CEA & INSERM, Paris) and Amnon Dafni-Merom for insightful comments on the article. This work was supported by the Israeli Science Foundation (grant no. 1306/18). M. P. is supported by a Fulbright postdoctoral fellowship from the United States? I srael Educational Foundation; by a Zuckerman STEM Leadership Program fellowship; and by the Eva, Luis & Sergio Lamas Scholarship Fund.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 Massachusetts Institute of Technology.


Dive into the research topics of 'Processing of different temporal scales in the human brain'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this