Though our perception of time can be stunningly precise — given a beat to keep, professional drummers are accurate within milliseconds — it can also be curiously plastic. Some moments seem to last longer than others, and scientists don’t know why.
Unlike our other senses, our perception of time has no defined location in our brain, making it difficult to understand and study. But now researchers have found hints that our sense of time stems from specialized units in our brain, channels of neurons tuned to signals of certain time lengths.
“We know keeping track of time is incredibly important, it allows us to coordinate movements, interpret body language,” said optometrist James Heron of the University of Bradford in the UK, lead author of the study in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, Aug. 10. “We know the brain does this routinely and accurately, but we’re not sure how. Our evidence strongly suggests the presence of neural units in the brain that are tuned to different durations.”
SRT-1720 is a new drug developed to mimic some of the effects of Reservatrol, which has previously been shown to increase lifespan in mice by 30% - as long as they were also kept on a low calorie diet.
The new drug is able to protect the mice from diseases related to obesity, by reducing the amount of fat in the liver and increasing sensitivity to insulin - in effect allowing fat people to live longer and healthier lives.
While SRT-1720 is still a long way from allowing people to have an unhealthy diet with no consequences, it shows the possibility of “designing novel molecules that are safe and effective in promoting longevity and preventing multiple age-related diseases in mammals,” says one researcher.
In the picture above, the mouse on the right was not given the drug, and the mouse in the centre was given SRT-1720.