How do we perceive time?

  In order to complete beautiful and sassy movements such as “1800 five-turnover on snow” and “figure skating quadruple jump”, athletes not only wear various black-tech sports equipment and receive advanced training methods, but also develop and train their own brains. of equal importance. In fact, the ability of athletes to complete a series of fast and precise movements is inseparable from the brain’s ability to perceive time.
  Mike Hall, a professional baseball coach at the University of Edinburgh, found that the top baseball players can clearly feel the ball slowing down when the ball is close to the bat, that is, at that moment, the players feel that time is slowing down; The ball becomes slow motion, so it is natural to be able to better judge the hitting position and precisely adjust the body posture so as to “hit it with one hit”. What are the physiological and physical mechanisms behind the brain’s perception of time? What causes differences in time perception among individuals? What are the practical applications of brain time perception? The following will reveal them one by one for you.
1. Why can’t you hit the fly?

  Have you ever wondered why you can’t hit flies? This is because flies and humans perceive time differently—flies perceive time passing more slowly, and human movements look like slow motion to flies, so flies have enough time to dodge. So how do we quantitatively describe the time perception ability of animals? Researchers mostly use the critical fusion frequency (CFF). CFF is the maximum frequency of light flicker that an individual can see. If the frequency exceeds this frequency, the feeling of flicker will disappear, resulting in the feeling of stable light. The maximum frequency of light flashes is related to the number of frames an animal can capture per second, and the ability to capture frames is related to the animal’s ability to perceive time. Therefore, we can use the CFF value to quantitatively describe the time perception ability of organisms – the larger the CFF value, the faster the image processing speed per second, and the slower the perception of time. We can intuitively feel the difference in the speed of time passing by different animals through the video below.
  There are also differences in CFF among different individuals of human beings. For example, infants, adults, and the elderly have different perceptions of time. Generally speaking, many people think that the older they are, the faster time passes. There is actually a certain scientific basis behind this. For example, a new study suggests that as we age, our brain’s imaging speed slows down, leading to an accelerated perception of time. Specifically, because babies’ eyes move much faster than adults’ eyes and process images faster than adults, and older people process images much less efficiently than young people in the same amount of time, this As a result, our psychology will change, thinking that time will pass faster when we get old.
  In addition to the different time perception caused by age, there are some experiences that people encounter in daily life that may also cause differences in people’s perception of time. For example, when you are riding a roller coaster, do you feel that just a few minutes make your days feel like years. This is actually a kind of time illusion produced by people under tension, fear, pain and other situations. In order to explain this problem, neuroscientist David Eagleman did an interesting experiment. He let the subjects suddenly fall freely on the 15-story equipment in the playground, and finally fell about 30 meters from the ground. buffering online. As subjects fell, he would ask them to stare at a timer whose numbers would flash much faster than normal. So if the subject’s perception of time actually slowed down as they fell, they could see the numbers on the timer. But it turned out that none of the subjects saw the numbers on the timer clearly, but when they were asked to estimate the time of the fall, almost all of the subjects estimated that the time was twice as long as their actual time of 2.6 seconds. about. Therefore, Eagleman believes that when people are in situations of tension, fear, pain, etc., the “slowing down of time” they feel is just the subjective processing of consciousness by their brains, not the actual slowing down of time perception. It can be said that time does not slow down for anyone.
  So can we control our personal time perception as much as we want? For example, we can all feel that emotions have a great influence on our time perception. Those happy and pleasant times are always so short, while those dull times are always far away. Therefore, we definitely hope that there will be some way to make those happy times last longer and let those painful days end early.
  Based on this, scientists have been looking for ways to control time perception as they wish. Although people have not completely solved the mystery of time, some methods have been found to help people change time perception. For example, some researchers have now discovered that affecting our dopamine system through some drug-like stimuli may change people’s perception of time. For example, taking stimulants such as cocaine and caffeine can make us feel that time passes quickly, while sedatives such as marijuana can make us feel that time passes slowly. In addition, in addition to this kind of drug stimulation, we can also put ourselves in a state of ecstasy through meditation or flow, that is, when you can immerse yourself in a job and achieve a kind of excitement Enjoy the state, thereby forgetting the time. For example, for many people, running for half an hour in the gym is a long and difficult process. Therefore, you can play your favorite songs in a loop or let yourself go while running to think about what you have done today and yourself. Some future plans or visions, etc. make the whole body and mind jump out, thus forgetting the time. At this time, you will find that half an hour is actually not very long. So, in conclusion, one way to better change people’s perception of the present moment is what they’re doing and the mood they’re in when they’re doing it. Emotion and attention play a key role in this.
2. The nature of time and the neural mechanism of perception

  CFF differences provide explanations for some phenomena in life. However, these theories only explain the differences in time perception, but cannot explain the mechanism of “time” or “perception” in a deeper way. For questions such as “Is time subjective consciousness or objective existence?” and “Can the process of perception be decomposed into more detailed components?”, it may be difficult to obtain convincing answers only by behavioral experiments based on people’s subjective feelings. The scale of time in physics continues to expand in both macro and micro directions, which is far beyond the scope of human perception, and the neuroscience research on human perception is also advancing from the behavioral scale to the microcosmic, following the organization , organs, neurons, and neurotransmitters to seek microscopic explanations step by step. Although the issue of time perception is not conclusive, the research on related issues in physics and neuroscience can provide inspiration for understanding time perception.
  The nature of time has always been one of the central questions in physics. In Newton’s view of space and time, time is absolute and will not change with any external action or observer, and is a concept independent of space. “The dead are like a man, never giving up day and night”, in the absolute space-time concept, time moves forward without any interruption. Time is seen as a straight line, which cannot be distorted by the motion of any object. However, the experimental phenomenon that the speed of light is constant breaks the assumption of absolute time: in the new relativity space-time theory, time is not a variable independent of space, but is closely related to the reference system. Time has become another dimension besides the three-dimensional space, and it can also slow down as the speed becomes faster. The time view of relativity not only provides a new theory for physics, but also inspires people’s new philosophical thinking about time.

  The relativistic space-time theory and the absolute space-time theory have obvious differences only in high-speed or microcosmic state. In the space-time scale of daily life, the influence of space and motion on time is negligible. Therefore, the difference in time perception mainly comes from the neural mechanism of perception rather than time itself. The molecular biological mechanisms of many human sensations have been discovered, such as temperature and touch receptors, which won the Nobel Prize last year. However, scientists have not yet discovered the specific molecular receptors that perceive time, but studies have found that neurotransmitters and hormones have an impact on time perception. For example, the increase in dopamine levels may speed up in some situations and slow down in others. perception of time. Although the nature of time perception is not particularly clear, at least these studies provide a molecular biological explanation for the phenomenon of differences in time perception.
3. Train the brain’s time perception function to improve athletic performance

  Going back to the difficult movement at the beginning: To reach an elite level, athletes need to constantly improve their coordination and shorten their reaction times. Here are three examples of brain function training for top American athletes.
  Two-time NBA MVP Stephen Curry’s reaction time has always been good, thanks in large part to his seven-year partnership with coach Brian Payne. Payne’s high-tech device, FITLIGHT, used in training, is a palm-sized disc system that emits light one after the other, and can be used to improve Curry’s agility, balance, coordination and reaction time. The science behind FITLIGHT: Overwork your brain so it can process everything faster. The coach controls the discs via a wireless remote, lighting up specific combinations of discs to indicate specific basketball moves (e.g. jump shot, layup, float). The combinations became increasingly difficult, forcing Curry’s brain to work harder in order to process information as quickly as possible. This in turn strengthens the brain, allowing it to digest more information and respond accordingly.
  Another athlete whose reaction time has reached an elite level is Toronto Raptors forward Kawhi Leonard. Leonard does a lot of training with strobe glasses. These glasses project flashing lights inside the goggles when the wearer performs specific exercises, and these camera-like flashes help the brain do more when it needs to process different visual stimuli, such as seeing Do specific tasks while the ball is in flight (such as dribbling or catching) while ignoring the flashing lights. This type of training, known as stroboscopic sensory training, helps the brain process visual information faster when vision is not disturbed by flashing lights.
  Beyond that, there are other athletes who take a more drastic step — using devices that stimulate neurons in the motor cortex. One of them is the NFL’s TJ Carrie, whose favorite device is a headset-shaped halo that sends electrical impulses directly to the brain. These electrical impulses stimulate the motor cortex, the area of ​​the brain involved in controlling and executing voluntary movements. The U.S. ski team has taken the same approach.
  Another frontier is the use of genetics to shape a person’s ability to excel in sports. Genetic tinkering may soon be used to produce bigger, faster, better athletes, as genes “have a significant effect on strength, muscle size and muscle fiber composition (fast or slow twitch), anaerobic threshold (AT), lung capacity , flexibility, and to some extent have a big impact on endurance.” Given the advances in the field of genetics, this future of “improved” athletes at the molecular level may actually be closer to reality.
4. Take a mental time trip

  From the previous introduction, we know that keeping the brain highly focused can slow down the passage of time, and the brain’s ability to process information and coordinate limbs becomes stronger. In addition, compared with other creatures on the earth, the human brain has a magical cognitive ability-the human brain can travel through time, think about the past, and look forward to the future. Many anthropologists and psychologists believe that one of the superpowers that distinguishes humans from other animals and apes is that we know how to plan for the future: planting crops in spring to store food for the next winter, working when young to save for retirement, and so on. Psychologists Thomas Saddorf and Michael Corbalis refer to our ability to mentally project ourselves into the future as mental time travel. However, in today’s information age, the torrent of information brought by various mobile phone applications, social software, and short videos is gradually sealing off our brain’s ability to travel through time and space. Swiping Wechat, Weibo, and Douyin makes us indulge in the world of instant spiritual gratification, thus losing the ability to focus on reading classic works; e-commerce and micro-businesses are full of tricks to sell goods, and live broadcast rooms bombard us with goods, making us like brainwashing Buying and buying in a regular manner, becoming a moonlight family, thus losing the “superpower” of saving for the future.
  In this era of information explosion, it is very important to set aside a certain amount of time for yourself to “go away from electronic products” every day: you can try to be alone in a clean and tidy room without TV, computer and mobile phone, read a book, write with paper and pen Put down your own thinking, let yourself enter the state of deep thinking and the unity of book and man. I believe that insisting on one hour a day is of great benefit to improving concentration and learning efficiency.
  Although we are not top athletes, nor can we make cool aerial tumbling movements through black technology training, we can still use the magical time perception mechanism of the brain to be the master of time and make a career in our respective fields!

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