Mental units of temporal experience

Our mind breaks the continuous stream of experience into events, or chunks. Events are meaningful episodes that unfold over time, such as throwing a ball. We can understand, for instance, who is throwing a ball to whom and at what speed. Events structure our experience and, importantly, allow us to predict the future—specifically, what will happen and when it will happen. For example, we can predict when the ball will be caught by the recipient, and it would be very surprising if the catcher received not a ball but something else. A core problem has been to understand how and why the continuous flow of experience is partitioned in this way. Our research in this area seeks to understand how we parse and order experience, and how the result is used to predict future sensory events; as well as how the brain implements those processes. We use computational modelling, fMRI, and MEG in healthy subjects, as well as invasive intracranial recordings in patients with epilepsy. With this research we seek to understand the building blocks of our temporal experience and why time feels the way it does, e.g., how we can apprehend, feel, and marvel at the temporal structure of music.

Key Publications

Ding, Melloni, Nat Neuroscience, 2016; Henin, Science Advances, 2021

Press Coverage