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 journalArticlepeer-review

82 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 - Apr 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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