That’s important for establishing, for example, cause and effect:
If you fall off a bike, you’ll probably end up with a cinematic memory of the experience: the wind in your hair, the pebble on the road, then the pain.
That’s known as an episodic memory. And now researchers have identified cells in the human brain that make this sort of memory possible, a team reports in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The cells are called time cells, and they place a sort of time stamp on memories as they are being formed. That allows us to recall sequences of events or experiences in the right order.
“By having time cells create this indexing across time, you can put everything together in a way that makes sense,” says Dr. Bradley Lega, the study’s senior author and a neurosurgeon at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.Jon Hamilton, “Why Some Memories Seem Like Movies: ‘Time Cells’ Discovered In Human Brains” at NPR
Paper. (open access)
For more information about how we realize time, see: What neuroscientists now know about how memories are born and die.