Brain Cells 'trained' to Tell Time

LOS ANGELES, July 20 (UPI) — The brain’s ability to tell time is key to how humans interact with the world, U.S. scientists say, so they’re “training” brain cells to keep time in a laboratory.

Researchers say timing is fundamental to many human abilities such as recognizing speech patterns and creating music, reported last week.

How the brain keeps time and recognizes patterns has been a mystery, so scientists at UCLA have attempted to test whether networks of brain cells kept alive in cultures in a laboratory could be “trained” to keep time.

They stimulated the cells with simple patterns, stimuli separated by fixed intervals of time ranging from a twentieth of a second up to half a second.

After two hours of “training,” measurable changes were observed in cell networks’ response to a single stimulus. Those trained with a short interval showed network activity for a short time, while those trained at longer intervals responded with activity that lasted a longer amount of time.

The networks had “learned” to generate simple timed intervals, the UCLA researchers said.

The study sheds light on how the brain tells time, they said, and will enhance understanding of how the brain works.

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