Examining real-time cortical dynamics is crucial for understanding time perception. Using magnetoencephalography we studied auditory duration discrimination of short (<.5 s) versus long tones (>.5 s) versus a pitch control. Time-frequency analysis of event-related fields showed widespread beta-band (13-30 Hz) desynchronization during all tone presentations. Synthetic aperture magnetometry indicated automatic primarily sensorimotor responses in short and pitch conditions, with activation specific to timing in bilateral inferior frontal gyrus. In the long condition, a right lateralized network was active, including lateral prefrontal cortices, inferior frontal gyrus, supramarginal gyrus and secondary auditory areas. Activation in this network peaked just after attention to tone duration was no longer necessary, suggesting a role in sustaining representation of the interval. These data expand our understanding of time perception by revealing its complex cortical spatiotemporal signature.
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