Time travel as Therapy

2333409688_16109de51eIn the study of time, philosophy has become theory, which has become proof. Moving at widely different speeds, two clocks will document two separate times.

A feature of special relativity, time dilation has been confirmed through experimentation.

But the effect can be observed in people as well. New studies demonstrate that two individuals standing even feet apart can, in fact, experience time very differently.

What's more, writing in the latest issue of PopSci, Steven Kotler suggests that understanding why time dilation occurs in individuals during times of crisis (think flying bullets in The Matrix) might lead to better treatments for mental illnesses. Kotler:

In recent years, scientists have learned that the circadian rhythms that control our 24-hour sleep/wake cycle are governed by a cluster of 10,000 brain cells called the suprachiasmatic nucleus. Sorting out what happens moment to moment is the focus of [David] Eagleman [neuroscientist at Baylor College of Medicine]... [H]is Baylor-based Laboratory for Perception and Action is one of the only facilities dedicated to running experiments that produce hard data on how we perceive time.

Engleman has found that the brain keeps two clocks, one "that feeds you a perception of the now, and another that is constantly at work tidying up that perception." To conserve energy, the portion of the brain "tidying up" will predict events, meaning that the everyday events will flow by relatively unnoticed, while the unexpected events takes longer - or so we think - to pass. 

This new understanding might have profound implications for sufferers of mental illness.

Deana Davalos, a psychologist at Colorado State University who works on timing and mental illness, agrees. 'Sensory gating, the process by which the brain filters out repeated stimuli, is a problem with schizophrenia,' she says. 'Most people think it’s a breakdown in their ability to inhibit responses to repeated stimuli, but Eagleman’s work points to a timing malfunction.' To this end, Eagleman, with the help of psychologists, is designing a videogame that would recalibrate the brains of patients. He hopes to begin testing it in the next few years.

It's a fascinating article. Read it for yourself.

Wayne

Image: http://www.flickr.com/photos/badboy69/ / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0