Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Does anybody really know what time it is?

Wow! The blog’s been silent a couple of weeks, and it only seemed like a few days. Same thing happened this summer, which apparently lasted only 4 weeks for me. “Time flies when you’re having fun,” the adage goes. Apparently it also moves rapidly when quite busy. But, that got me thinking on some random musings about time; so I took some time to get them down:

The Aborigines of Australia do not always have a linear concept of time. Mental health professionals note occasional difficulty with psychological assessments due to this pattern. Aboriginal people do not see events necessarily in past, present, or future sense, but rather in a “time-circle” on the basis of importance to themselves and their community. To put it in our perspective, September 11th 2001 would be closer to our “time-circle” than, say, Martha Stewart going to jail.

Those that focus on the present to the exclusion of a stressful past have lower scores on depression scales. A study done by Morton Beiser on Southwest Asia Refugees hypothesizes that a “Nostalgic” time orientation incorporates the actual stressful memory into the sense of time, and thus correlates with a greater depression symptoms. Dr. Herbert Rappaport at Temple U. notes that emotional maturity comes when one is able to project well into the past and the future in a balanced way had the strongest self acceptance.

Acute stressors, such as car accidents, tend to slow the perception of time; while longer stressors, such as being held hostage for days, tend to have a more compressed perception of time. I wonder if the brain attempts to keep the perception of time accurate during stressors or anticipated stressors. Perhaps this is why we whistle when we are nervous?

Altered time perceptions are described frequently in altered neurochemical states. Depression, Anxiety and Substance abuse are all identified with a potential for “remembered time” perception changes. Multiple studies have identified cannabinoid, serotonin, dopamine, and opiate receptor systems that are associated with altering time consciousness.

Attention Deficit Disorder and Parkinson’s disease are also linked to time perception changes. These latter two disease states appear to have a direct difficulty with “perceptual time” or “clock time,” the ability to estimate or compare duration of time. The most recent neuroimaging suggests that the basal ganglia and dopamine, acting upon the parietal lobes are the role players for this sense of time.

“When a man sits with a pretty girl for an hour, it seems like a minute. But let him sit on a hot stove for a minute -- and it's longer than any hour. That's relativity.”
-Albert Einstein


Anonymous said...

"Wow! The blog’s been silent a couple of weeks, and it only seemed like a few days."

Uhm... no, it's seemed like a month.

Anticipation slows the perception of time, too, it seems. :)

Doc said...

LOL! Nice, anon. Care to be my P.R. director?

Anonymous said...

lol. Gladly. I enjoy your blog; you explore interesting topics, and always have a pleasant word for the commenters. Keep up the good work. :)