Time SEEMS to slow down when the brain speeds up

United States
March 19, 2012 9:18am CST
I was watching a program about the brain’s survival mode on The Science Channel this morning. It was really interesting. It was talking about how the brain distorts the sense of time for us. I know I have experienced this during great times of stress. The program said that in times of extreme stress that the brain can slow down the sense of time to give us the ability to make snap decisions to save our lives. They did some experiences to check how the brain is able to do this by having people jump off 150 foot platforms on a bungi cord. On the way down the person is watching a timer where the numbers are flashing very fast. They are flashing so fast that you couldn’t see the individual numbers. The results of the test was that a portion of the people tested were able to seemingly slow down time in their heads so that they could read the numbers as they elapsed on the timer. They also said it seemed to take twice as long to reach the bottom than it actually did. In actuality the brain speeds up to be able to read the timer, but as it is speeding up everything else seems to be slowing down in our perception. We can do that when we are anxious about something. Have you ever been waiting for check out time at work and it seems to take forever for the clock to move? Or Have you ever been waiting for someone to give you the results of a test and the wait seemed to take forever? Or have you been waiting for water to boil and it seems to take all day? The passage of time is actually the same, but the brain alters our perception of it. Your thoughts?
1 person likes this
6 responses
@saundyl (9693)
• Canada
29 Mar 12
I think thats really neat...makes sense to me. I'm SO looking forward to getting to see my boyfriend...He'll be here monday and it seems like this last week has taken forever to go by. I know that when hes here...it will feel like time went by way to quickly.
1 person likes this
• United States
29 Mar 12
Exactly! I'm going through that now.
@winterose (39922)
• Canada
19 Mar 12
yep I know about this and it is extremely fascinating for sure. No man made device will ever replace the brain that is how I feel. God made us in such a way that no one will ever be able to copy cat.
1 person likes this
• United States
19 Mar 12
Oh I agree! No man will ever be able to create anything as complex as our brain…. I watched how the brain and the eyes work together … like in cops doing high speed chases. They have to make split second decisions and their brain and eyes go into a kind of over drive. The eyes have these special rod cells that stay inert until something moves and our eyes suddenly fix on it… it’s amazing how the brain works together with the eyes, the muscles, nerves and everything. The brain’s main function is to protect itself to preserve life. I saw where a race car driver’s brain went into slow motion for him to be able to think out a maneuver to save his life and avoid an accident. His memory of it was that it was in slow motion, but really his brain was in overdrive. Kind of like a high speed camera makes things look like they are going slow.
@bunnybon7 (35492)
• Holiday, Florida
19 Mar 12
you mean if we are impatiently waiting for something, we should jump off something on a bungi cord? and it will speed up? JUST KIDDING! dont get upset at me. its a joke. anyway, i know what you are talking about. lately when im waiting or upset about something, i play a couple rounds of Zuma. you have to be fast to beat it. so, therefore it speeds up my time. i think its the same concept for concentrating on other things while waiting. right?
1 person likes this
• United States
19 Mar 12
I think so.. the brain is an amazing piece of equipment, isn't it? I want to write some articles about this phenomenon of the brain slowing down the concept of time. We all know that the brain speeds things up, like the last responder mentioned about having fun and the time has passed without even knowing it. In survivor mode, the brain has tremendous power to do some real tricks to keep us alive. Like seeming to slow down time (when really the brain is speedily figuring things out) so that you can form a plan in a millisecond to save your life, yet the person remembers it being in slow motion.
@almond24 (1250)
• Hungary
19 Mar 12
Thank you for this information, now I see i was not just imagining, but the brain really works like this. It explains why it takes forever waiting for the time to go home from work I remember having accidents, too, where I was saved, and couldn't explain why my brain worked the way it did. Like once we were hiking with my friends and got to a rocky part of a mountain. I suddenly slipped on the edge, if I had fallen down I probably wouldn't have come back. In just one second I saw several pictures flashing from my past, and then ideas about what would be best to do. I grabbed some roots of a tree and was able to pull myself back up. I'm quite surprised to see how I'm able to react so quickly sometimes. Normally it takes me forever to makes decisions.
1 person likes this
• United States
19 Mar 12
Thank you for this. This kind of thing is what I am looking for in this discussion. I've never had my life flash before me like that, but I have had thoughts come so fast like a really fast movie in my head. Like I was able to figure things out super fast. My mind was able to sort out things in split seconds and it played like a movie in my head in fast forward. Yet, I was able to understand it all and make my split decisions.
@crossbones27 (18555)
• Redlands, California
19 Mar 12
That sounds like an interesting topic. I love the Science Channel and other educational channels like it. I find they have more interesting programs on them than all the other channels combined. Anyways, I can definitely see that being the case. I remember when I was 9 or 10 and going to a carnival and seeing this cool roller coaster. I was so exited to get on it, but not so much once I was on. I guess I did not realize that I was scared of heights and all the ups and downs, twists and turns, and the speed of it just had me petrified. That ride seem to last forever. I remember being on the ground that each ride only took a few minutes but this ride seem to be taking a hour. So it may help in survival mode but it also can just add to the agony of the experience. One more thing that thing about confronting your fears. That only works to a certain extent. I have tried going Ferris wheels other roller coasters, climbed mountains, flew in airplanes, repelled down a tower in boot camp. I can officially say none of that has reduced my fear of heights and actually may be worse now, as now I get anxiety just thinking or watching some one bungee jumping, or doing something crazy like that. I guess it is just more to do with knowing that if I have to, I can climb up a mountain or rappel down the tower. It sure would be help if I wasn't scared out of my mind, to make the time go by faster.
1 person likes this
• United States
19 Mar 12
Yes, I love the Science channel, and TLC and DSC. They have such good programs. I have fears of driving in unfamiliar territory. I totally panic. It seems like when I get into a situation that causes me to panic that time stands still. It feels like hours, when it might just be minutes or even seconds going by.
@BarBaraPrz (19348)
• St. Catharines, Ontario
19 Mar 12
Time is fluid... it ripples along when and where it will...
1 person likes this
• United States
19 Mar 12
Hi BarBaraPrz, I'm not really talking about time, but the perception of time. How the brain works in emergencies to seemingly slow time down. The discussion mentions examples.