DOI: 10.14704/nq.2009.7.1.212

Effects of Pharmacologically Induced Dopamine-Receptor Stimulation on Human Temporal Information Processing

Thomas Rammsayer


According to the distinct-timing hypothesis, temporal discrimination of intervals in the range of seconds is cognitively mediated, whereas brief intervals in the sub-second range are processed automatically and beyond cognitive control. Although there is some evidence from neuropharmacological studies suggesting that temporal processing in the second and sub-second range is modulated by the effective level of dopamine (DA) activity in the brain, the findings are not conclusive. For the first time, the present experiment investigated the effect of a DA receptor agonist on timing performance in healthy human subjects. In a double-blind crossover design, placebo, 0.075 mg and 0.100 mg of pergolide were administered in a single oral dose. Performance on temporal discrimination of intervals in the sub-second range was significantly improved after 0.100 mg of pergolide compared to both placebo and the lower dose of pergolide. No reliable effect of pergolide could be observed for temporal discrimination of longer intervals. The overall pattern of results provides converging evidence for the validity of the distinct-timing hypothesis and for dopaminergic modulation of the neural mechanisms underlying automatic timing.


Dopamine, temporal discrimination, time perception, time

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