Navigating through Time: A Spatial Navigation Perspective on How the Brain May Encode Time

John B. Issa, Gilad Tocker, Michael E. Hasselmo, James G. Heys, Daniel A. Dombeck

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Interval timing, which operates on timescales of seconds to minutes, is distributed across multiple brain regions and may use distinct circuit mechanisms as compared to millisecond timing and circadian rhythms. However, its study has proven difficult, as timing on this scale is deeply entangled with other behaviors. Several circuit and cellular mechanisms could generate sequential or ramping activity patterns that carry timing information. Here we propose that a productive approach is to draw parallels between interval timing and spatial navigation, where direct analogies can be made between the variables of interest and the mathematical operations necessitated. Along with designing experiments that isolate or disambiguate timing behavior from other variables, new techniques will facilitate studies that directly address the neural mechanisms that are responsible for interval timing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)73-93
Number of pages21
JournalAnnual Review of Neuroscience
StatePublished - Jul 8 2020


  • animal behavior
  • episodic memory
  • interval timing
  • neural circuits
  • spatial navigation
  • timing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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