A chocoholic rat named Marco helped scientists figure out where we perceive time

Image courtesy: Kolbjørn Skarpnes & Rita Elmkvist Nilsen / NTNU


From an article on Ars Technica by Jennifer Ouellette.

Scientists have known how the brain encodes the aspect of space in our memories since 2005, with the Nobel Prize-winning discovery of grid cells. These reside in a brain region called the medial entorhinal cortex (MEC), and they collectively map our environment into hexagonal units.

The philosopher Martin Heidegger suggested in the 1920s that time persists solely as a consequence of the events that take place within it.

> Now, a team of Norwegian scientists has confirmed the mechanism the brain uses to make sense of the passage of time as we experience something, thanks to the help of a chocolate-loving lab rat. NamedMarco.

Marco the lab rat, wired for science!Photo courtesy: Erlend Lånke Solbu/NRK

The researchers put their hunch to the test in an experiment with a rat named Marco. In the first round, Marco was free to roam about for two hours, exploring his environment in search of his favorite treat: bits of chocolate. The researchers tracked his brain activity [...] as he did so and then successfully worked backward from the recorded signal to verify exactly when various key events (like finding a piece of yummy chocolate) had occurred during the experiment.

Click here to read the article in Ars Technica.

Click here to read the abstract of the research the article is based on (published in Nature).