Dissociations between motor timing, motor coordination, and time perception after the administration of alcohol or caffeine

Philip Terry, Michail Doumas, Rajeev I. Desai, Alan M. Wing

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)
298 Downloads (Pure)


The impacts of psychoactive drugs on timing have usefully informed theories of timing and its substrates.

The objectives of the study are to test the effects of alcohol and caffeine on the explicit timing involved in tapping with the implicit timing observed in the coordinated picking up of an object, and with the temporal discrimination.

Materials and methods
Participants in the “alcohol” experiment (N = 16) received placebo, “low” (0.12 g/kg or 0.14 g/kg for women/men, respectively) or “high” (0.37 g/kg or 0.42 g/kg, respectively) doses of alcohol, and those in the “caffeine” experiment (N = 16) received placebo, 200 or 400 mg caffeine. Time production variability was measured by repetitive tapping of specified intervals, and sources of variance attributable to central timer processes and peripheral motor implementation were dissociated. The explicit timing in tapping was compared with the implicit timing in the coordinated picking up of an object. Time perception was measured as discrimination thresholds for intervals of similar duration. Drug effects on reaction time were also measured.

For tapping, alcohol significantly increased timer variability, but not motor variability; it did not affect coordination timing in the grip-lift task. Conversely, for time perception, the low dose of alcohol improved temporal discrimination. Caffeine produced no effects on any of the timing tasks, despite significantly reducing reaction times.

The effects of alcohol argue against a common clock process underlying time interval perception and production in the range below 1 s. In contrast to reaction time measures, time perception and time production appear relatively insensitive to caffeine.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)719-729
Number of pages11
Issue number4
Early online date10 Oct 2008
Publication statusPublished - 2009
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology


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