Tomassini, A. & Morrone, M. C. (2016).
Perceived visual time depends on motor preparation and direction of hand movements, Sci Rep, (6), 27947.
Perceived time undergoes distortions when we prepare and perform movements, showing compression and/or expansion for visual, tactile and auditory stimuli. However, the actual motor system contribution to these time distortions is far from clear. In this study we investigated visual time perception during preparation of isometric contractions and real movements of the hand in two different directions (right/left). Comparable modulations of visual event-timing are found in the isometric and in the movement condition, excluding explanations based on movement-induced sensory masking or attenuation. Most importantly, and surprisingly, visual time depends on the movement direction, being expanded for hand movements pointing away from the body and compressed in the other direction. Furthermore, the effect of movement direction is not constant, but rather undergoes non-monotonic modulations in the brief moments preceding movement initiation. Our findings indicate that time distortions are strongly linked to the motor system, and they may be unavoidable consequences of the mechanisms subserving sensory-motor integration.