Chronophobia might be based on chronoperception. Chronoperception is the process by which time is perceived by the central nervous system. The study of the characteristics of the central nervous system is essential in order to uncover the reasons for aging-related psychological crises and to diagnose the early symptoms of neurodegenerative diseases. Like any function of the brain, chronoperception undergoes certain changes in connection with the body’s regression due to aging. The goal of this research is to establish the nature of aging-related changes in chronoperception and develop a biophysiological basis for the explanation of this phenomenon.
The basic method of studying changes in chronoperception entails the use of surveys, directed at various age groups, that are constructed to identify changes affecting the subjective interpretation of time. The selection of survey participants was conducted randomly. 21 persons participated in the experimental surveys.
The phenomenon of the acceleration of chronoperception was detected in 95.2% (20) of the respondents. The phenomenon of the acceleration of chronoperception over a ten-year interval of time was observed, in varying degrees, in 33.3% (7) of the respondents. The picture changes with the application of a survey comparing two ten-year periods in youth and adulthood. The phenomenon of the acceleration of chronoperception was observed in about half of the cases 47.5% (10). Thus, the effect of the acceleration of chronoperception increased with the expansion of the intervals of time evaluated. The feeling of deprivation in relation to lived time was observed in 71.4% (15) of the respondents. At the same time, 52% (11) feel that if a general law governing how time is perceived at different ages were established, they could more easily plan their life. This, the respondents feel, would preclude aging-related psychological crises.
Biophysiological basis and metabolic model
A biophysiological basis of the phenomenon of the aging-related acceleration of chronoperception is based on our proposed model of the inverse relationship between the intensity of metabolism of the hypothalamus and the speed of the process of chronoperception. With an increase in age there occurs a slowing of mitochondrial metabolism (3; 4; 5), which results in a decrease in the output of ATP and an increase of the production of gamma-aminofatty acid GABA. This is responsible for the deterioration of the neural activity of the hypothalamus. The activity of the temporo-septal axis, which is responsible for the process of time perception, decreases (2). A smaller quantity of episodes are coded and decoded by that part of the brain. Thus, over equal intervals of time the process of encoding and decoding episodic memory occurs more quickly in the young brain than in the brain of an older individual.
Because the perception of time depends on the quantity of episodes undergoing encoding and decoding in the temporo-septal axis of the hypothalamus, each interval of time saturates a young individual with episodic memory to a greater degree than is possible in an older individual. Thus, identical intervals of time are perceived differently by individuals in different stages of life. As an individual’s age increases, his perception of the passage of time accelerates. Put simply, time is perceived to speed up. Chronoperception is the process by which time is perceived by the human brain. This process plays a significant role in the formation of the psychological state of one’s personality. The occurrence of age-related crises is linked in many cases to feelings of disappointment and deprivation with respect to past and remaining time. Because chronoperception is linked to the encoding of episodic memory and because the temporo-septal axis of the hypothalamus is an engram – a repository of this type of memory – a biophysiological basis underlies the feelings linked to the increase of the speed of the flow of time. Therefore, we may study the phenomenon of the change in the way time is perceived as a symptom of the development of neurodegenerative processes. The study of chronoperception lies at the interface of different sciences such as psychology, gerontology, biochemistry, physiology and neuropharmacology. Therefore, an integrated approach is necessary to study chronoperception. The project studying chronoperception led by our research center identifies the following objectives:
The identification of the phenomenon of the change in chronoperception with age and the conduct of experiments aimed at establishing the quantitative relationships in the changes of the perception of time among a healthy population as well as among persons suffering from various neurodegenerative diseases.
The development of effective methods of early detection of neurodegenerative diseases on the basis of changes in chronoperception.
The development of methods of effective therapy for psychological age-related crises linked to a change in chronoperception.
The development of a system of relationships between biological age and an age based on the chronoperception of the individual.
The preparation of popular literature and the conduct of preventive and expository outreach programs for at-risk groups. These programs will decrease risk factors promoting the development of age-related psychological crises and reduce the occurrence of depression, an associated condition.
In the research presented in the present work, the phenomenon of the acceleration of the perception of time with aging is established; a quantitative evaluation of the results is conducted; and the degree to which changes in the perception of time bear on the formation of crisis situations is revealed. The present research included the development of a biophysiological basis explaining the identified phenomenon of the age-related acceleration of chronoperception. This basis was developed with the aid of a metabolic model.
Research on the subjective perception of the passage of time was conducted by the laboratory of chronoperception. 21 individuals participated in the surveys. Participants in the experiment were chosen randomly.
Goals of the survey:
The identification of the fact that the perception of time changes with the advancement of biological age.
The identification of the proportion of changes in the perception of time.
The identification of the fact that changes in the perception of time bear on the development of psychological age-related crises.
The core questions of the survey were:
Do you feel that time passes more quickly with age?
Recall an event in your life which recurred periodically over time periods of equal duration. Compare your perception of the duration of this event ten years ago with your perception of it one year ago.
Describe any changes in or relationship between these two periods of your perception.
Recall the duration of your instruction in grade school and compare this with the duration of the instruction of your kids in grade school. Did you experience a feeling of deprivation when you, looking back, felt that time passed much more quickly than you expected? Do you feel that you managed to do less than you intended?
Do you think that if a general law governing changes in the perception of time with age were established it would become easier for people to plan their lives and avoid psychological crises?
The phenomenon of the acceleration of chronoperception was uncovered in 95.2% (20) of the respondents. While examining changes in the perception of equal periods of time in the present and 10 years ago, the process of the acceleration of chronoperception was observed in 57% (12) of the cases. In 19.4% (4) of the cases chronoperception was observed to increase by a factor of 1.5. In 14.3% (3) of the cases acceleration of chronoperception by a factor of 2 was observed. 9.5% (2) had trouble answering. The phenomenon of the acceleration of chronoperception over a short interval of time in 10 years was observed to varying degrees in 33.3% (7) of the respondents. The picture changed during the survey calling for the comparison of two ten-year periods in childhood and adolescence (the time of grammar school and high school) and in adulthood (the time of grammar school and high school of the respondents’ children.) Only 38% (8) affirmed that the feeling of the named periods of time were identical, whereas 38% (8) confirmed that time for them passed faster by a factor of 1.5 and 9.5% (2) said that time passed faster by a factor of 2. 14.3% had difficulty answering. The phenomenon of the acceleration of chronoperception was observed in almost half of the cases 47.5% (10). Thus, the effect of the acceleration of chronoperception grew with the increase in the evaluated intervals of time. The feeling of deprivation in relation to lived time was observed in 71.4% (15) of the respondents. 52% (11) feel that if a general law governing how time is perceived at different ages were established, they would more easily be able to plan their life. This, the respondents feel, would preclude age-related psychological crises.
Mechanism the process of chronoperception
First, it should be determined which of the parts of the brain is responsible for the perception of time. According to new research of Lytton W and Lipton P of the University of Wisconsin (2) published this year, the perception of time is based in the episodic memory. That is, the memory of an individual relates to specific moments in time. These episodes are encoded and decoded in distinct parts of the hypothalamus. The temporo-septal axis of the hypothalamus plays an important role in the perception of time. The model (Temporo-Septal Engram Shift Model of Hippocampal Memory) proposed in this study shows that episodes undergo encoding in the temporal lobe of the hypothalamus and constantly move to the septal lobes where they can be decoded and recalled. This confirms that the sense of time lies in the temporo-septal axis of the hypothalamus.
Biochemical basis for the change in chronoperception
We substantiate the hypothesis that the phenomenon of the change of chronoperception is caused by biological regression of the brain with new data obtained by GABAergic deafferentation. Marczynski TJ (3) of the department of pharmacology of the University of Illinois asserts that there exists a connection between the age-related degeneration of neurons in various regions of the brain (including the region of the hypothalamus) and the activity of glutamic acid (glutamic acid decarboxylase GAD enzyme), which synthesizes gamma-aminofatty acid GABA. An inverse relationship exists between the concentration of phosphates rich in energy (mainly ATP) and the activation of glutamic acid decarboxylase GAD. In the present work it is postulated that in all phenotypes of neurons the age-related decrease in ATP of the negative control leads to the gradual increase in the production of gamma-aminofatty acid. The release of Ca2+ independent carrier-mediated GABA hinders the exocytotic release of all transmitters and modulators as interstitial GABA acts on the axon terminals (3;10). Depolarization of GABA A-benzodiazepine receptors occurs. Thus GABA bears responsibility for the neurodegenerative processes associated with aging. With an increase in age, the production of ATP decreases, which leads to a blocking of the secretion of transmitters. This, in turn, leads to the degeneration and chronic depolarization of axons and the blocking of the retrograde transporter trephines, which causes the constant loss of neurons. Other research by Swaab DB has shown that a decrease in metabolic activity takes place in the region of the hypothalamus both in cases of Alzheimer’s disease and as a result of aging.
The model of an inverse relationship between metabolism of the neurons of the hypothalamus and the process of chronoperception
We propose the following model, which appeals to the process of biological regression to explain the found effect of the acceleration of chronoperception. The slowdown of mitochondrial metabolism occurs in proportion to an increase in age (4;5), which results in a decrease in the production of ATP. This, in turn, causes an increase in the emission of gamma-aminofatty acid GABA, which is responsible for the degradation of the ability of neurons in the hippocampus to transmit impulses. The activity of the temporo-septal axis, responsible for the process of time perception, decreases. A smaller quantity of episodes are encoded and decoded by that part of the brain. Thus, over equal intervals of time the process of encoding and decoding of the episodic memory occurs faster in a young brain than in the brain of an older individual. Because the perception of time depends on the quantity of episodes undergoing encoding and decoding in the temporo-septal axis of the hypothalamus, each interval of time saturates a young individual with episodic memory to a greater degree than is possible with an older individual. Thus, identical intervals of time are perceived differently by individuals in different stages of life. An acceleration of the perception of time occurs with an increase in age. Put simply, time is perceived to speed up.
As a result of the research we have conducted, the phenomenon of the acceleration of chronoperception with aging (biological regression) has been established. It has also been established that the acceleration of chronoperception increases in proportion to the degree of divergence between the compared intervals of time and their length. The influence of the phenomenon of the acceleration of chronoperception on the development of age-related psychological crises is supported. In the search for a biophysiological foundation for the phenomenon of the acceleration of chronoperception, a model of the inverse relationship between metabolic intensity in the hypothalamus and the speed of chronoperception was created. In the future these findings will allow us to establish more accurate quantitative relationships in the changes of the perception of time among a healthy population during aging and among persons suffering from various neurodegenerative diseases. On the basis of the data collected as a result of the discovery of the phenomenon of the age-related acceleration of chronoperception, it is imperative to begin developing new methods of early diagnosis of neurodegenerative diseases, therapeutic methods to treat psychological age-related crises, expository popular literature and preventive public awareness programs that aim to decrease risk factors that promote the development of age-related psychological crises and related states of depression.
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