About Time

The Physiology of Time

Time isn’t just lived in the brain; it’s stamped into the very cells of our being. This episode explores how bodily clocks, illness and age all impact how we experience time – and how social time inventions, like daylight saving, can clash with our highly individual biological time.

This episode in brief

What is biological time?
(02:50)

We all have a silent clockwork inside us governing what we feel and how our bodies operate. This section introduces the biological clocks that keep us ticking over — focusing on those which have captured our imagination most: circadian rhythms. We explore how ultradian rhythms work, from those that are stamped into our cells to those that respond to our external environment.

Sleep cycles: our master clock
(07:00)

Ever considered where the whole “early bird”/”night owl” classification comes from? Or why teenagers find it so hard to get up in the mornings? This section takes a closer look at how our individual “clock genes” influence out master circadian rhythm: the sleep/wake cycle. We consider how social designs for time — like daylight savings and work schedules — impact biological time, and the potentially dangerous consequences of the social jetlag they create.

How our body impacts how we experience time
(10:45)

In our last episode, we explored how our psychology can impact how we experience time, but our bodies also play a huge part in this too. Neuropsychologist Marc Wittmann helps explain how bodily states can act as time keepers in their own right — and how pain, temperature, illness, drugs and basic sensory stimuli all affect our conscious experience of time.

The “phenomenal self” and time
(14:40)

The “material self” is one of our primary tools for cataloguing and understanding our life, but it’s only possible as an entity over time. This final section considers how our bodily signals constitute the most basic feature of our conscious self — as a stream of information that is forever updating — and how feeling states could function as an inner measure of duration itself.

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