Probing the timing network: A continuous theta burst stimulation study of temporal categorization.
Méndez JC., Rocchi L., Jahanshahi M., Rothwell J., Merchant H.
Time perception in the millisecond and second ranges is thought to be processed by different neural mechanisms. However, whether there is a sharp boundary between these ranges and whether they are implemented in the same, overlapped or separate brain areas is still not certain. To probe the role of the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (dlPFC), the right supplementary motor area (SMA), and the cerebellum on time perception, we temporarily altered their activity on healthy volunteers on separate sessions using transcranial magnetic stimulation with the continuous Theta Burst Stimulation (cTBS) protocol. A control session was reserved for the stimulation of the primary somatosensory cortex (S1). Before and after stimulation, participants were tested on a temporal categorization task using intervals in the hundreds and thousands of milliseconds ranges, as well as on a pitch categorization task which was used as a further control. We then looked for changes in the Relative Threshold and the Constant Error, which, respectively, reflect participants' sensitivity to interval duration and their accuracy at setting an interval that acts as a boundary between categories. We found that after cTBS in all of the studied regions, the Relative Threshold, but not the Constant Error, was affected and only when hundreds of milliseconds intervals were being categorized. Categorization of thousands of milliseconds intervals and of pitch was not affected. These results suggest that the fronto-cerebellar circuit is particularly involved in the estimation of intervals in the hundreds of milliseconds range.