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Does consciousness occur in 'time slices' ?


Posted on Monday, 18 April, 2016 | Comment icon 26 comments

How does consciousness work - how do we perceive the world ? Image Credit: sxc.hu
Scientists have shed new light on how we experience the world through our perception of consciousness.
Understanding how consciousness works has intrigued both scientists and philosophers alike for centuries, but while it is something that we experience every day without even thinking about it, conscious perception remains a very difficult thing to describe or explain.

One theory suggests that consciousness occurs as a constant stream similar to how you might experience a movie at the cinema, while another implies that our conscious perception consists instead of a series of individual moments stitched together in to a seamless, cohesive whole.

Now however scientists in Switzerland have put forward a third possibility - one that takes in to account both of the previous theories by suggesting that consciousness is comprised of 400ms "slices" of time that are processed unconsciously before we become aware of them.

"The reason is that the brain wants to give you the best, clearest information it can, and this demands a substantial amount of time," said researcher Michael Herzog. "There is no advantage in making you aware of its unconscious processing, because that would be immensely confusing."
The team believes that the period of time in which the processed data is experienced consciously may last only 50ms before new sensory information is received and the process repeats.

Somehow the brain is able to effectively combine all of this together in to a single flow of events.

"Metaphorically, such a representation is akin to the answer to the question of how were your holidays: 'We enjoyed the colours of the Tuscan landscape for three days and then went to Venice for four sunny days at the sea'," the study authors wrote.

"The response is a compressed post-hoc description regarding the temporal features of the trip, even though the actual event was spread over a long period of time."

Source: Science Alert | Comments (26)


Tags: Brain, Consciousness, Perception


Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #17 Posted by lightly on 19 April, 2016, 11:58
I've always wondered about time, and how long "now" is. If time and space are locked together in what is called space/time... then does space occur , or re-occur in "slices" too? ..and what of the quantum "stuff" space is now known to be composed of? I'll expect a complete, but simple, explanation when i return. ;
Comment icon #18 Posted by Leonardo on 19 April, 2016, 13:00
I've always wondered about time, and how long "now" is. If time and space are locked together in what is called space/time... then does space occur , or re-occur in "slices" too? ..and what of the quantum "stuff" space is now known to be composed of? I'll expect a complete, but simple, explanation when i return. ; The questions resulting from a quantised spacetime are meaningful in the context of science (and mathematics), but are meaningless in the context of consciousness and existence (and so, what this thread is about) because there can be, by the very nature of the concepts, no "gap" betw... [More]
Comment icon #19 Posted by paperdyer on 19 April, 2016, 14:24
That isn't how science works. You don't pick and choose bits you think are important. Science is cumulative, and always results in unexpected benefits. You don't? Someone had to be interested enough in the subject to work on the theory. Someone else had to fund it. Now finding/inventing Mauve while trying to make synthetic quinine is a hidden benefit. Finding anything by serendipity can be a benefit. I still don't see the benefit in this work unless it leads to time travel of some sort. In the end, your perception is your reality. Whether your reality intercepts with the majority of people on ... [More]
Comment icon #20 Posted by StarMountainKid on 19 April, 2016, 15:40
I've always wondered about time, and how long "now" is. If time and space are locked together in what is called space/time... then does space occur , or re-occur in "slices" too? ..and what of the quantum "stuff" space is now known to be composed of? I'll expect a complete, but simple, explanation when i return. lol All I know is the quantum of space is supposed to be called a spacion or something and the quantum of time is supposed to be called the chronon or something. Planck length is 1.6x10^35m and Planck time is 5.4x10^-44sec. I think space, time and gravity must be quantized, as everythi... [More]
Comment icon #21 Posted by GreenmansGod on 19 April, 2016, 18:09
what unexpected benefits did we get from theory of gravity. Gravity boost for spacecraft for one. It also helps tracking those pesky near earth crossing objects and someday we my actually need to defect one.
Comment icon #22 Posted by pallidin on 19 April, 2016, 20:32
Well, I've read the article, these posts, and will give my very poor 2 cents worth of opinion... My understanding is that, biologically, we actually process perception not in the current, rather "in the very near past" Look at yourself in a mirror, or even at another person or object... There is a delay that seems both imperceptible and inconsequential, because in most cases it is. Yet the delay is there. I guess I don't know what to make of all this.
Comment icon #23 Posted by danielost on 20 April, 2016, 9:50
Gravity boost for spacecraft for one. It also helps tracking those pesky near earth crossing objects and someday we my actually need to defect one. I said unexpected. newton knew about gravity boost. from the apple that supposedly hit him.
Comment icon #24 Posted by Emma_Acid on 20 April, 2016, 12:30
what unexpected benefits did we get from theory of gravity. Jesus, really?? You don't? Someone had to be interested enough in the subject to work on the theory. Someone else had to fund it. Now finding/inventing Mauve while trying to make synthetic quinine is a hidden benefit. Finding anything by serendipity can be a benefit. I still don't see the benefit in this work unless it leads to time travel of some sort. Thankfully the scientific world cares not a toss whether you personally see the benefit in something. This is how science works. You don't say "lets research x because in 100 years tim... [More]
Comment icon #25 Posted by HDesiato on 20 April, 2016, 22:12
I'm reminded of this cool study titled: "Does Time Really Slow Down during a Frightening Event?" http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0001295 Observers commonly report that time seems to have moved in slow motion during a life-threatening event. It is unknown whether this is a function of increased time resolution during the event, or instead an illusion of remembering an emotionally salient event. Using a hand-held device to measure speed of visual perception, participants experienced free fall for 31 m before landing safely in a net. We found no evidence of increa... [More]
Comment icon #26 Posted by Waspie_Dwarf on 21 April, 2016, 15:28
I said unexpected. newton knew about gravity boost. from the apple that supposedly hit him. That is not gravity boost,or gravity assist as it is more commonly called, that is just acceleration due to gravity, which is something else all together. The gravity assist GreenmansGod is talking about is when a spacecraft uses the gravitational field of a planet to accelerate or decelerate, changing it's trajectory without the use of engines. Newton most certainly not know about this as it was first proposed by Yuri Kondratyuk between 1918 and 1919, more than 190 years after Newton's death. So it was... [More]


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