i09 Editor-In-Chief, Annalee Newitz, explains how the brain keeps track of time like a clock by sending pulses to your memory. However this internal clock can be sped up or slowed down via a number of factors, including attention and focus, caffeine and other drug intake. Drinking a cup of coffee or focusing on a project increases the number of pulses-per-minute your brain sends your memory, slowing down time-perception and enhancing memory retention. But what seems like five minutes to the brain in a espresso-juiced deadline rush, can actually be more like 25 minutes, explaining why we often miss deadlines. Newitz explains more about why your perception of time will never be exact:
When you watch the seconds tick by on a digital watch, you are in the realm of objective time, where a minute-long interval is always 60 seconds. But to your brain, a minute is relative. Sometimes it takes forever for a minute to be over. That’s because you measure time with a highly subjective biological clock. Your internal clock is just like that digital watch in some ways. It measures time in what scientists call pulses. Those pulses are accumulated, then stored in your memory as a time interval. Now, here’s where things get weird. Your biological clock can be sped up or slowed down anything from drugs to the way you pay attention. If it takes you 60 seconds to cross the street, your internal clock might register that as 50 pulses if you’re feeling sleepy. But it might last 100 pulses if you’ve just drunk an espresso. That’s because stimulants literally speed up the clock in your brain (more on that later). When your brain stores those two memories of the objective minute it took to cross the street, it winds up with memories of two different time intervals.
You can read the full article at i09.