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Perceived time expands and contracts within each heartbeat

Arslanova, Irena, Kotsaris, Vassilis, Tsakiris, Manos (2023) Perceived time expands and contracts within each heartbeat. Current biology : CB, . Article Number S0960. ISSN 0960-9822. E-ISSN 1879-0445. (doi:10.1016/j.cub.2023.02.034) (KAR id:100615)


Perception of passing time can be distorted. Emotional experiences, particularly arousal, can contract or expand experienced duration via their interactions with attentional and sensory processing mechanisms. Current models suggest that perceived duration can be encoded from accumulation processes and from temporally evolving neural dynamics. Yet all neural dynamics and information processing ensue at the backdrop of continuous interoceptive signals originating from within the body. Indeed, phasic fluctuations within the cardiac cycle impact neural and information processing. Here, we show that these momentary cardiac fluctuations distort experienced time and that their effect interacts with subjectively experienced arousal. In a temporal bisection task, durations (200-400 ms) of an emotionally neutral visual shape or auditory tone (experiment 1) or of an image displaying happy or fearful facial expressions (experiment 2) were categorized as short or long. Across both experiments, stimulus presentation was time-locked to systole, when the heart contracts and baroreceptors fire signals to the brain, and to diastole, when the heart relaxes, and baroreceptors are quiescent. When participants judged the duration of emotionally neural stimuli (experiment 1), systole led to temporal contraction, whereas diastole led to temporal expansion. Such cardiac-led distortions were further modulated by the arousal ratings of the perceived facial expressions (experiment 2). At low arousal, systole contracted while diastole expanded time, but as arousal increased, this cardiac-led time distortion disappeared, shifting duration perception toward contraction. Thus, experienced time contracts and expands within each heartbeat-a balance that is disrupted under heightened arousal. [Abstract copyright: Copyright © 2023 The Author(s). Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.]

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1016/j.cub.2023.02.034
Additional information: For the purpose of open access, the author has applied a CC BY public copyright licence (where permitted by UKRI, an Open Government Licence or CC BY ND public copyright licence may be used instead) to any Author Accepted Manuscript version arising
Uncontrolled keywords: time perception, cardiac phase, temporal distortion, interoception, cardiac signal, facial expression, temporal bisection, duration perception, arousal
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Human and Social Sciences > School of Psychology
Funders: European Research Council (
SWORD Depositor: JISC Publications Router
Depositing User: JISC Publications Router
Date Deposited: 29 Mar 2023 13:23 UTC
Last Modified: 31 Mar 2023 08:06 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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Kotsaris, Vassilis.

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