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Why Time Slows Down In Emergencies

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Why Time Slows Down In Emergencies

It is a popular misconception that the warping of time is caused by adrenaline released in the brain, however scientists have now found that this feeling seems to be an illusion.

When we experience situations of extreme danger time really seems to slow down. It is a popular misconception that the warping of time is caused by adrenaline released in the brain, however scientists have now found that this feeling seems to be an illusion.

time warp 2 Why Time Slows Down In Emergencies
To see if danger makes people experience time in slow motion, scientists at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston tried scaring volunteers to get results.

David Eagleman, a neuroscientist at the college, together with his colleagues developed a device called a “perceptual chronometer” that was to be strapped to the wrists of volunteers. The watch-like device flickered numbers on its screen and the speed at which the numbers were displayed could be adjusted.

If the brain sped up when in danger, the researchers theorized rapidly changing numbers on the perceptual chronometers would appear slow enough to read while volunteers fell.

There was however one small problem, roller coasters and other frightening amusement park rides did not cause enough fear to make time warp. Instead, the researchers had to drop volunteers from great heights. Scientists had volunteers dive backward with no ropes attached, into a special net that helped break their fall.

time warp Why Time Slows Down In Emergencies
The three-second, 150-foot drop with a maximum speed of 70 mph induced enough fear to carry out the research.

The results were not as expected, time did not seem to warp, and the scientists found that volunteers could not read the numbers at faster-than-normal speeds.

Instead, such time warping seems to be a trick played by one’s memory.

When a person is scared, a brain area called the amygdala becomes more active, laying down an extra set of memories that go along with those normally taken care of by other parts of the brain. Eagleman explained that,

“In this way, frightening events are associated with richer and denser memories”¦..and the more memory you have of an event, the longer you believe it took…..

“This illusion is related to the phenomenon that time seems to speed up as you grow older. When you’re a child, you lay down rich memories for all your experiences; when you’re older, you’ve seen it all before and lay down fewer memories. Therefore, when a child looks back at the end of a summer, it seems to have lasted forever; adults think it zoomed by.”

This work could help better understand disorders linked with timing, such as schizophrenia. Still, in the end, “it’s really about understanding the virtual reality machinery that we’re trapped in,” Eagleman told LiveScience. “Our brain constructs this reality for us that, if we look closely, we can find all these strange illusions in. The fact that we’re now seeing this with how we perceive time is new.”

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