Ottavia D’Agostino, Serena Castellotti, & Maria Michela Del Viva

Time estimation during motor activity

Front. Hum. Neurosci. 17:1134027

https://doi.org/10.3389/fnhum.2023.1134027 Download

Several studies on time estimation showed that the estimation of temporal intervals is related to the amount of attention devoted to time. This is explained by the scalar timing theory, which assumes that attention alters the number of pulses transferred by our internal clock to an accumulator that keeps track of the elapsed time. In a previous study, it was found that time underestimation during cognitive-demanding tasks was more pronounced while walking than while sitting, whereas no clear motor-induced effects emerged without a concurrent cognitive task. What remains unclear then is the motor interference itself on time estimation. Here we aim to clarify how the estimation of time can be influenced by demanding motor mechanisms and how different motor activities interact with concurrent cognitive tasks during time estimation. To this purpose, we manipulated simultaneously the difficulty of the cognitive task (solving arithmetic operations) and the motor task. We used an automated body movement that should require no motor or mental effort, a more difficult movement that requires some motor control, and a highly demanding movement requiring motor coordination and attention. We compared the effects of these three types of walking on time estimation accuracy and uncertainty, arithmetic performance, and reaction times. Our findings confirm that time estimation is affected by the difficulty of the cognitive task whereas we did not find any evidence that time estimation changes with the complexity of our motor task, nor an interaction between walking and the concurrent cognitive tasks. We can conclude that walking, although highly demanding, does not have the same effects as other mental tasks on time estimation.