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The basal ganglia in perceptual timing: Timing performance in Multiple System Atrophy and Huntington's disease

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Thomas Cope, Dr Manon Grube, Dr Baldev Singh, Professor David Burn, Professor Tim GriffithsORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC-ND).


The timing of perceptual events depends on an anatomically and functionally connected network comprising basal ganglia, cerebellum, pre-frontal cortex and supplementary motor area. Recent studies demonstrate the cerebellum to be involved in absolute, duration-based timing, but not in relative timing based on a regular beat. Conversely, functional involvement of the striatum is observed in relative timing, but its role in absolute timing is unclear. This work tests the specific role of the basal ganglia in the perceptual timing of auditory events. It aims to distinguish the hypothesised unified model of time perception (Teki, Grube, & Griffiths, 2012), in which the striatum is a mandatory component for all timing tasks, from a modular system in which they subserve relative timing, with absolute timing processed by the cerebellum. Test groups comprised individuals with Multiple System Atrophy, a disorder in which similar pathology can produce clinical deficits associated with dysfunction of the cerebellum (MSA-C, n=8) or striatum (MSA-P, n=10), and early symptomatic Huntington's disease (HD, n=14). Individuals with chronic autoimmune peripheral neuropathy (n=11) acted as controls. Six adaptive tasks were carried out to assess perceptual thresholds for absolute timing through duration discrimination for sub- and supra-second time intervals, and relative timing through the detection of beat-based regularity and irregularity, detection of a delay within an isochronous sequence, and the discrimination of sequences with metrical structure. All three patient groups exhibited impairments in performance in comparison with the control group for all tasks, and severity of impairment was significantly correlated with disease progression. No differences were demonstrated between MSA-C and MSA-P, and the most severe impairments were observed in those with HD. The data support an obligatory role for the basal ganglia in all tested timing tasks, both absolute and relative, as predicted by the unified model. The results are not compatible with models of a brain timing network based upon independent modules. (C) 2013 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Cope TE, Grube M, Singh B, Burn DJ, Griffiths TD

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Neuropsychologia

Year: 2014

Volume: 52

Pages: 73-81

Print publication date: 01/01/2014

Online publication date: 14/10/2013

Acceptance date: 27/09/2013

Date deposited: 17/04/2014

ISSN (print): 0028-3932

ISSN (electronic): 1873-3514

Publisher: Pergamon


DOI: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2013.09.039


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Funder referenceFunder name
091681Wellcome Trust
091681/Z/10/ZWellcome Trust