May 2017, Vol. 29, No. 5, Pages 805-815.
The visual system is extremely efficient at detecting events across time even at very fast presentation rates; however, discriminating the identity of those events is much slower and requires attention over time, a mechanism with a much coarser resolution [Cavanagh, P., Battelli, L., & Holcombe, A. O. Dynamic attention. In A. C. Nobre & S. Kastner (Eds.), The Oxford handbook of attention (pp. 652–675). Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013]. Patients affected by right parietal lesion, including the TPJ, are severely impaired in discriminating events across time in both visual fields [Battelli, L., Cavanagh, P., & Thornton, I. M. Perception of biological motion in parietal patients. Neuropsychologia, 41, 1808–1816, 2003]. One way to test this ability is to use a simultaneity judgment task, whereby participants are asked to indicate whether two events occurred simultaneously or not. We psychophysically varied the frequency rate of four flickering disks, and on most of the trials, one disk (either in the left or right visual field) was flickering out-of-phase relative to the others. We asked participants to report whether two left-or-right-presented disks were simultaneous or not. We tested a total of 23 right and left parietal lesion patients in Experiment 1, and only right parietal patients showed impairment in both visual fields while their low-level visual functions were normal. Importantly, to causally link the right TPJ to the relative timing processing, we ran a TMS experiment on healthy participants. Participants underwent three stimulation sessions and performed the same simultaneity judgment task before and after 20 min of low-frequency inhibitory TMS over right TPJ, left TPJ, or early visual area as a control. rTMS over the right TPJ caused a bilateral impairment in the simultaneity judgment task, whereas rTMS over left TPJ or over early visual area did not affect performance. Altogether, our results directly link the right TPJ to the processing of relative time.