research

The Cognition & Brain Dynamics lab principally investigates temporal cognition and temporal perception. Our lab is part of the Cognitive Neuroimaging Unit hosted at NeuroSpin (CEA, DRF/Joliot). We combine cognitive theory with state-of-the art human neurosciences (using MEG, EEG, fMRI, psychophysics and any suitable methods to address our questions).

Temporal Cognition distinguishes two ways in which the nonverbal brain represents time: the interval sense and the phase sense (Gallistel, 1990). Interval timing is the ability of an organism to quantify and compare time intervals (i.e. durations or temporal distances). The phase sense refers to the internal mapping of events in time, supporting the ability to predict when an event will occur in a given period of time (also called temporal orienting or attention).

The phase sense vs. interval timing dichotomy is essential in distinguishing at least two distinct neural operations: (i) the mapping of events in time, which requires a mechanism to encode or time-stamp events in a cognitive map (in the manner we consciously map historical events on a calendar) and (ii) the quantification of internal distances and relational operations between two recorded quantities. Both are essential and complementary facets of temporal cognition.

This is well-aligned and can be refined with the distinction between implicit and explicit timing: explicit timing refers to the deliberate engagement in timing to solve a task, for instance when estimating a duration; implicit timing on the other hand, refers to the automatic (unconscious) extraction of temporal regularities in sensory environments, used to form temporal predictions that facilitate the processing of future inputs.

Not quite orthogonal to the question of time, a long-standing interest remains multisensory processing, conceived as a first step towards building abstraction in the mind. For instance, how does the brain infer that the same sensory events originate from the same cause? Given the same location in space, is the simultaneity of events necessary and sufficient to integrate multisensory events?