Precision and accuracy of subjective time estimation in different memory disorders

Paolo Nichelli*, Annalena Venneri, Mariangela Molinari, Federica Tavani, Jordan Grafman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

72 Scopus citations


The aim of this study was to evaluate how different memory disorders affect subjective time durations. For this purpose we studied prospective time estimations in 4 amnesic (A) and in 15 Alzheimer's disease (AD) patients, and compared their performance with that of 5 matched young normal controls (YC) and 15 elderly subjects (EC). For the short-time durations we asked the subject to repeatedly reproduce a standard interval of 1 s. To test how subjects evaluated longer time durations, we choose a verbal estimation procedure. The subjects' task was to read either 5, 10, 20, or 40 digits appearing one at a time, while concurrently keeping the rhythm of 1 key press per second. At the end of each sequence, subjects had to judge the elapsed time from the beginning of the trial. Results showed that amnesics can correctly reproduce 1-s intervals. However, their accuracy of verbal estimates of longer durations was severely impaired. AD patients showed increased variability on repeated reproduction of 1-s intervals and were both inaccurate and imprecise in their verbal estimate of longer durations. Using the framework of the Scalar Timing Model, we conclude that amnesic patients exhibit a deficit in encoding and storing the current time for intervals that exceed their short-term memory range, while AD patients show a pattern of deficit that is explained by a more widespread involvement of both the clock, the memory, and the decisional mechanisms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)87-93
Number of pages7
JournalCognitive Brain Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 1 1993


  • Alzheimer's dementia
  • Amnesia
  • Frontal lobe
  • Neuropsychology
  • Time perception

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Behavioral Neuroscience

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