Modulating perception of time using Vestibular Stimulation

Role: Conception, Programming, Hardware Design, Experiment Design, Analysis
Duration: 16 weeks
Advisor: Prof. Misha Sra
 Currently in Review  • 


Perception of time is a vital aspect of human consciousness and crucial for adaptive behaviors, decision-making, and evaluating outcomes. The subjective experience of time's duration is influenced by various factors, including the intensity of sensory stimuli and the allocation of attention. Our study specifically investigates the impact of Galvanic Vestibular Stimulation (GVS) on time perception, an area that has not been extensively explored. Prior research indicates that different senses process stimuli at varying speeds, and GVS, in particular, shows a markedly longer processing time when compared to tactile, visual, and auditory stimuli. We aim to unravel whether vestibular stimulation, especially via GVS, significantly alters time perception, delving into the cerebellum's dual role in vestibular functioning and timekeeping. This exploration is pivotal in understanding the intricate relationships between sensory processing and the perception of time.


Time perception is a multi-faceted cognitive process fundamental to human experience, encompassing the awareness and understanding of the passage and duration of events. It is vital for coordinating daily activities, from physical movements to complex cognitive functions. Scientifically, time perception is studied through various paradigms, including neurological and linguistic approaches. Neurologically, time perception is categorized into sub-second, interval, and circadian timing, each processed in different brain areas. This complex system is influenced by factors like mental states, drugs, and neurological disorders, demonstrating its intricate connection with various brain functions. Linguistically, time perception is reflected in how languages structure time-related concepts, revealing cultural and cognitive aspects of how humans perceive and communicate about time.

In our experiment investigating the effects of Galvanic Vestibular Stimulation (GVS) on time perception, we explore the convergence of vestibular stimulation, hippocampal function, and the cognitive perception of motion and time. Our study particularly examines how direct vestibular inputs via GVS may influence the hippocampus, a brain region crucial for memory and spatial navigation, and its role in processing temporal and spatial information. The experiment's nuanced approach combines neurological, sensory, and cognitive perspectives, aiming to unravel the sophisticated interplay between our physical movement, spatial orientation, and the perception of time's passage. Our research aims to enhance our understanding of the intricate mechanisms by which the brain integrates these diverse aspects, offering insights into the broader spectrum of cognitive processing and neural functionality.


The experiment involved two distinct groups of participants, each exposed to different experimental conditions. The control group did not receive Galvanic Vestibular Stimulation (GVS), whereas the experimental group was subjected to GVS along with a series of cognitive tasks. These tasks included a time perception task, a temporal bisection task, and reaction time tasks. This design was implemented to prevent any potential learning effects. The study's methodology aligned with the Scalar Expectancy Theory (SET), which posits an internal clock model for time perception comprising a pacemaker, an accumulator, and a switch. Our focus was to assess the impact of GVS on time perception, particularly for supra-second durations. Participants in both group engaged in tasks for temporal production, bisection and reaction, thereby allowing an examination of how vestibular stimulation influences the perception of time.


Our findings indicate that specific modalities of Galvanic Vestibular Stimulation (GVS) indeed contracts subjective time. This effect was observed as significant differences in time production and estimation tasks between the experimental group, which received GVS, and the control group. These results provide valuable insights into the role of the vestibular system in time perception, thereby enhancing our understanding of the underlying neural mechanisms in this critical cognitive process. Consequently, our study sheds light on the neural basis of time perception and underscores the potential impact of vestibular stimuli on various cognitive functions

Our work is currently under review. If you’d like to know more about this work, email me here.