Different models have been proposed to explain how the human brain derives an accurate sense of time. One specific class of models, intrinsic models, state that temporal information of a stimulus is represented much like other features such as color and location, bound together to form a coherent percept. Here we explored to what extent this holds for temporal information after it has been perceived and is held in working memory for subsequent comparison. We recorded EEG of participants who were asked to time stimuli at lateral positions of the screen followed by comparison stimuli presented in the center. Using well-established markers of working memory maintenance, we investigated whether the usage of temporal information evoked neural signatures that were indicative of the location where the stimuli had been presented, both during maintenance and during comparison. Neural and behavioral measures, including the contralateral delay activity, lateralized alpha suppression and decoding analyses through time, all supported the same conclusion: while the representation of location was strongly involved during the perception of temporal information, once temporal information was committed to memory it no longer showed any relation to spatial information during maintenance or during comparisons. These results support a model where the initial perception of a stimulus involves intrinsic computations, but that this information is subsequently translated to a stimulus-independent format to be used to further guide behavior.
bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience