Implicit Versus Explicit Timing—Separate or Shared Mechanisms?

Sophie K. Herbst*, Jonas Obleser, Virginie van Wassenhove

*Corresponding author for this work
4 Citations (Scopus)


Time implicitly shapes cognition, but time is also explicitly represented, for instance, in the form of durations. Parsimoni-ously, the brain could use the same mechanisms for implicit and explicit timing. Yet, the evidence has been equivocal, revealing both joint versus separate signatures of timing. Here, we directly compared implicit and explicit timing using magne-toencephalography, whose temporal resolution allows investigating the different stages of the timing processes. Implicit temporal predictability was induced in an auditory paradigm by a manipulation of the foreperiod. Participants received two consecutive task instructions: discriminate pitch (indirect measure of implicit timing) or duration (direct measure of explicit timing). The results show that the human brain efficiently extracts implicit temporal statistics of sensory environments, to enhance the behavioral and neural responses to auditory stimuli, but that those temporal predictions did not improve explicit timing. In both tasks, attentional orienting in time during predictive foreperiods was indexed by an increase in alpha power over visual and parietal areas. Furthermore, pretarget i nduced beta power in sensori motor and pari etal areas increased during implicit compared to explicit timing, in line with the suggested role for beta oscillations in temporal prediction. Interestingly, no distinct neural dynamics emerged when participants explicitly paid attention to time, compared to implicit timing. Our work thus indicates that implicit timing shapes the behavioral and sensory response in an automatic way and is reflected in oscillatory neural dynamics, whereas the translation of implicit temporal statistics to explicit durations remains somewhat inconclusive, possibly because of the more abstract nature of this task.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Cognitive Neuroscience
Issue number8
Pages (from-to)1447-1466
Number of pages20
Publication statusPublished - 01.07.2022

Research Areas and Centers

  • Academic Focus: Center for Brain, Behavior and Metabolism (CBBM)

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