The ability to remember the past and imagine the future can significantly affect a person's decisions in life. Scientists refer to the brainâ€™s ability to think about the past, present, and future as "chronesthesia," or mental time travel, although little is known about which parts of the brain are responsible for these conscious experiences. In a new study, researchers have used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to investigate the neural correlates of mental time travel and better understand the nature of the mental time in which the metaphorical "travel" occurs.
The researchers, Lars Nyberg from Umea University in Umea, Sweden; Reza Habib from Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, Illinois; and Alice S. N. Kim, Brian Levine, and Endel Tulving from the University of Toronto in Toronto, Ontario, have published their results in a recent issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
"Mental time travel consists of two independent sets of processes: (1) those that determine the contents of any act of such â€˜travelâ€™: what happens, who are the 'actors,' where does the action occur; it is similar to the contents of watching a movie â€“ everything that you see on the screen; and (2) those that determine the subjective moment of time in which the action takes place â€“ past, present, or future," Tulving told PhysOrg.com.
Gah, it makes my brain hot!