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Neural Computation

January 2016, Vol. 28, No. 1, Pages 89-117
(doi: 10.1162/NECO_a_00792)
© 2015 Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Analytical Calculation of Errors in Time and Value Perception Due to a Subjective Time Accumulator: A Mechanistic Model and the Generation of Weber’s Law
Article PDF (1.21 MB)

It has been previously shown (Namboodiri, Mihalas, Marton, & Hussain Shuler, 2014) that an evolutionary theory of decision making and time perception is capable of explaining numerous behavioral observations regarding how humans and animals decide between differently delayed rewards of differing magnitudes and how they perceive time. An implementation of this theory using a stochastic drift-diffusion accumulator model (Namboodiri, Mihalas, & Hussain Shuler, 2014a) showed that errors in time perception and decision making approximately obey Weber’s law for a range of parameters. However, prior calculations did not have a clear mechanistic underpinning. Further, these calculations were only approximate, with the range of parameters being limited. In this letter, we provide a full analytical treatment of such an accumulator model, along with a mechanistic implementation, to calculate the expression of these errors for the entirety of the parameter space. In our mechanistic model, Weber’s law results from synaptic facilitation and depression within the feedback synapses of the accumulator. Our theory also makes the prediction that the steepness of temporal discounting can be affected by requiring the precise timing of temporal intervals. Thus, by presenting exact quantitative calculations, this work provides falsifiable predictions for future experimental testing.