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Due to the evolution of the Covid-19 outbreak worldwide, the BIAL Foundation decided to postpone its 13th Symposium "Behind and Beyond the Brain" to April 6-9, 2022.

We would like to point out that this 13th Symposium will be dedicated to the theme "The mystery of time" and will take place at Casa do Médico, Porto, Portugal. We will do our best to maintain the program previously announced and shall come back to you in due course on this issue, as well as on the reopening of the registrations. We hope you can join us in April 2022!

Regarding registrations already made, they will be automatically transferred to the new Symposium dates. Those who are unable to attend may request a refund of the registration fee to

The mystery of time

Einstein wrote: “The distinction between the past, present and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion.” Today, understanding the nature of time constitutes a major scientific and philosophical challenge. Along with space, time is a fundamental dimension of physics. Most organisms have biological mechanisms tuned to its passage. And human existence is profoundly shaped by its inexorable march. Under the theme “The mystery of time”, the 13th Symposium of the BIAL Foundation “Behind and Beyond the Brain” gathers some of the most prominent scientists and philosophers to engage in a resolutely interdisciplinary dialogue around the many aspects of time: Its very nature, which physicists continue debating; the subjective feelings its passage elicits in humans and other animals; the fundamental questions it is associated with, such as the thorny problem of causality.

The Symposium will open on April 6th with an evening lecture by TED-speaker Anil Seth (Sussex, UK), who will explore what we know about the perception of time in humans and in machines, highlighting the idea that the brain is a “prediction machine”.

The first session will take place on the morning of April 7th. Moderated by Etzel Cardeña (Lund, SE), the session will be dedicated to the physics of time. Orfeu Bertolami (Porto, PT), Jimena Canales (Urbana-Champaign, USA), Daniel Sheehan (San Diego, USA) & Patricia Cyrus (Orlando, USA) will explore how physicists conceive of time today, and how their theories are shaped by what we know about the perception of time. Fundamental, and yet unsolved questions, such as the possibility of precognition or the nature of causality, will be addressed during these exchanges, which will close with a keynote lecture delivered by Bernard Carr (London, UK).

The second session, taking place on the morning of April 8th, is aimed at surveying the biology of time. Moderated by Miguel Castelo-Branco (Coimbra, PT), it features lectures by Julia Mossbridge (Evanston and San Francisco, USA), Michael Brecht (Berlin, DE), and Joseph S. Takahashi (Dallas, USA), who will examine how organisms have adapted to the passage of time: From biological clocks to the mechanisms of memory, from “pre-sponding” to circadian rhythms, the speakers will engage the many ways in which neural systems respond to time in the absence of specific receptors systems dedicated to perceive it. The morning will close with a keynote lecture by Wolf Singer (Frankfurt, DE), who will explore what sorts of mechanisms have evolved to make it possible for living things to be able to “parse” time.

The third session, on the morning of April 9th, will focus on the experience of time. Caroline Watt (Edinburgh, UK) will moderate the lectures of Dean Buonomano (Los Angeles, USA), Daryl Bem (Ithaca, USA), and Jennifer Coull (Marseille, France), who will examine what it is like to feel the passage of time, how brains and bodies shape our perception of it, and how future events may affect us. The keynote lecture of Marc Wittmann (Freiburg, DE), dedicated to the links between the self and time, will close the morning.

Time will be short during the symposium as the afternoons will feature many events: oral poster presentations by BIAL Foundation grant holders (afternoon of April 7th, moderated by Mário Simões); four participatory parallel workshops dedicated to (1) the physics and metaphysics of time, (2) precognition and anomalous experiences, (3) the experience of time in altered states of consciousness, and (4) perception and memory of time on the afternoon of April 8th; and a closing conversation time moderated by science journalist Teresa Firmino on the afternoon of April 9th.

With this 13th Symposium, the BIAL Foundation hopes to engage speakers and the audience around a deep, interdisciplinary reflection about the most enigmatic aspect of existence - the elusive, yet inexorable dimension of time, the true nature of which we are yet to fully understand.

"The Mistery of Time": Program under review

  • Organizing Committee & Participants - under review
  • April 6: Program - under review
  • April 7: Program - under review
  • April 8: Program - under review
  • April 9: Program - under review
  • General Information - under review

Axel Cleeremans (Brussels)

Etzel Cardeña (Lund)
Miguel Castelo-Branco (Coimbra)
Rui Costa (New York and Lisbon)
Rainer Goebel (Maastricht)
Stefan Schmidt (Freiburg)
Caroline Watt (Edinburgh)


Daryl Bem (Ithaca, NY)
Orfeu Bertolami (Porto)
Michael Brecht (Berlin)
Dean Buonomano (Los Angeles)
Jimena Canales (Urbana-Champaign)
Etzel Cardeña (Lund)
Bernard Carr (London)
Miguel Castelo-Branco (Coimbra)        
Axel Cleeremans (Brussels)
Rui Costa (New York and Lisbon)
Jennifer Coull (Marseille)
Patricia Cyrus (Orlando)
Teresa Firmino (Lisbon)
Rainer Goebel (Maastricht)
Julia Mossbridge (Evanston and San Francisco)
Stefan Schmidt (Freiburg)
Anil Seth (Sussex)
Daniel Sheehan (San Diego)
Mário Simões (Lisbon)
Wolf Singer (Frankfurt)
Joseph S. Takahashi (Dallas)
Caroline Watt (Edinburgh)
Marc Wittmann (Freiburg)

April 6

20:00 - 21:15 - Registration
21:15 - 21:45 - Opening Session (in Portuguese)
21:45 - 22:30 - Opening Conference

Axel Cleeremans
Chairman | Axel Cleeremans
Research Director, Consciousness, Cognition & Computation Group, Université Libre de Bruxelles, Belgium. Scientific interests: consciousness and implicit learning, models of conscious and unconscious cognition, neural network of cognitive processes.


The perception of time in humans, brains and machines

Anil Seth
Anil Seth
Professor of Cognitive and Computational Neuroscience, University of Sussex, and Founding Co-Director of the Sackler Centre for Consciousness Science, UK. Co-Director of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research Azrieli Program on Brain, Mind, and Consciousness. Editor-in-Chief of the Neuroscience of Consciousness (Oxford University Press) and Wellcome Trust Engagement Fellow. Scientific interests: the understanding of the biological basis of consciousness by bringing together research across neuroscience, mathematics, artificial intelligence, computer science, psychology, philosophy and psychiatry.

Abstract: We have eyes to see, ears to hear, and noses to smell - but how do we perceive the flow of time? I will explore the perception of time from the perspective of the brain as a “prediction machine”, presenting a series of studies from our laboratory that have been led by Warrick Roseboom. In our view, brains do not mark off time by the ticking of an ‘internal clock’. Our perception of time is instead generated by brain mechanisms involved in perception of things other than time itself. I will illustrate this view with a combination of experiments, computational models, and brain imaging data - setting these studies in the broader context of predictive perception and the Bayesian brain. We will see how to build machines that perceive time in a human-like way, and how time itself is not just one thing but many things.

April 7

1st session - The arrow of time | Moderator - Etzel Cardeña

09:00 - 09:15 - Opening remarks

Etzel Cardeña
Etzel Cardeña
Thorsen Professor of Psychology and Director of the Center for Research on Consciousness and Anomalous Psychology (CERCAP), Department of Psychology, Lund University, Sweden. Scientific interests: the psychology of anomalous experiences/non-ordinary mental expressions, including parapsychological phenomena; neurophenomenology of hypnosis, meditation and dissociation; stream of consciousness.

09:15 - 09:45 - Time, the hidden dimension

Orfeu Bertolami
Orfeu Bertolami
Professor of Physics, Faculty of Sciences, University of Porto, Portugal. Scientific interests: astroparticle physics, cosmology, classical and quantum gravity, applied and fundamental physics in space, earth system physics.

Abstract: In contemporary physics space and time are intertwined entities so that kinematic and dynamical quantities can be expressed in the four-dimensional space-time. This formulation seems to contradict our every-day experience and perception, according to which space and time are distinct entities. In our lecture, we shall discuss these contradictory views and analyse the fundamental property of time, namely that it evolves from the past to the present, from the present to the future.

09:50 - 10:20 -The trouble with Einstein's time

Jimena Canales
Jimena Canales
Writer and Professor of the Graduate College, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, USA. Author of “A Tenth of a Second” and “The Physicist and the Philosopher: Einstein, Bergson, and the Debate That Changed Our Understanding of Time”. Scientific interests: history of science.

Abstract: Debates about time have left “a hole at the heart of physics” (Scientific American, Sept 2002) from which the discipline has yet to recover. The main problem is usually traced to Einstein’s theory of relativity, to the notion of a “block universe,” and to his famous claim that “the distinction between the past, present and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion.” While some scientists have tried to incorporate elements of our experience of time into our explanations of the universe, others continue to claim that our sense of time is simply illusory. Can these debates be solved by science alone or are they inescapably philosophical, historical and cultural? My talk will explore the origins of this persistent quandary by focusing on the relation of physics to philosophy, history and the humanities.

10:25 - 10:55 - Retrocausation and precognition: Taking time seriously

Daniel Sheehan
Daniel Sheehan
Professor of Physics, University of San Diego, USA.  Scientific interests: plasma physics, the foundations of thermodynamics, energy technology, nanotechnology, consciousness, and the physics of time and retrocausation.

Patricia Cyrus
Patricia Cyrus
Siemens Energy, Orlando, USA. Has participated in multiple experimental studies over the last 20 years in the field of remote viewing (RV), often collaborating with Dale Graff, most recently in demonstrations of precognitive RV.

Abstract: The fundamental equations of physics are time-symmetric, that is, they equally admit time-forward (retarded) and time-reversed (advanced) solutions. Our personal experience of time and its unfolding in natural processes, however, suggest a unidirectional `arrow of time.' This unidirectionality is usually attributed to the second law of thermodynamics, although other processes are probably at play also. The best documented potential exceptions to time's unidirectionality is human precognition (e.g., presentiment and premonition) in which information about the future is acquired in the present.
In this talk, we will attempt to explain precognition via retrocausation within the current paradigm of physics, starting from the following three assumptions: a) fundamental physical process are time symmetric such that both retarded and advanced potentials are present; b) the second law of thermodynamics operates in both temporal directions (if (a) is true, then (b) should follow); and c) individual conscious experiences have unique quantum correlates (e.g., wavefunctions). While these premises may appear controversial, in fact, they honor physical theory as it formally appears in its equations, taking them more seriously than is typical of the scientific community. Our analysis indicates it may be possible to construct non-sentient devices that demonstrate precognitive effects, thereby opening the phenomenon to more systematic study.

12:30 - 13:00 - Morning Discussion

13:00 - 14:30 - Lunch

14:30 - 15:30 - Oral poster presentations - Grant holders

Bernard Carr
Bernard Carr
Professor of Mathematics and Astronomy, Queen Mary, University of London, UK. For his PhD he studied the first second of the Universe, working under Stephen Hawking. Former President of the Society for Psychical Research and former Chairman of the Scientific and Medical Network. Scientific interests: cosmology and astrophysics - early universe, dark matter, black holes and the anthropic principle; the role of consciousness in physics - he is developing a new psycho-physical paradigm, linking matter and mind, which accommodates both normal and anomalous mental experiences.

Abstract: The problem of time involves an overlap between physics, philosophy, psychology and neuroscience. My talk will discuss the role of time in physics but also emphasize that physics may need to expand to address issues usually regarded as being in the other domains. I will first review the mainstream physics view of time, as it arises in Newtonian theory, relativity theory and quantum theory. I will then discuss the various arrows of time, the most fundamental of which is the passage of time associated with consciousness. I will argue that this goes beyond both relativity theory and quantum theory, so that one needs some new physical paradigm to accommodate it. A new paradigm is required anyway to describe quantum gravity and this may elucidate the nature of both time and consciousness.

15:30 - 16:00 - Coffee, posters session and contacts with faculty

16:00 - 17:00 - Oral poster presentations - Grant holders

April 8

2nd session - The biology of time | Moderator - Miguel Castelo-Branco

09:00 - 09:15 - Opening remarks

Miguel Castelo-Branco
Miguel Castelo-Branco
Professor of Biostatistics and Visual Sciences and Director of CIBIT at ICNAS, University of Coimbra, Portugal. Scientific interests: sensory and perceptual neuroscience, and neurobiology of decision-making, social cognition and reward in health and disease.

09:15 - 09:45 - Predictive anticipatory activity: How do biological systems pre-spond to future events?

Julia Mossbridge
Julia Mossbridge
Visiting Scholar at Northwestern University, Evanston, and Associated Full Professor, California Institute of Integral Studies, San Francisco, USA. 2014 recipient of the Charles Honorton Integrative Contributions Award from the Parapsychology Association. Scientific interests: the relationship between psychological and physical time, unconscious access to future events, training people to improve their future orientation.

Abstract: Physical systems are generally time symmetric and retrocausal effects have been demonstrated in quantum systems. However, we normally assume that at least for biological systems, events in what we call the future cannot produce influences in what we call the past. This assumption seems ripe for questioning, given data showing the biological systems - so far, humans, worms, and birds - seem to pre-spond reliably to events produced by random number generators. This talk will be nearly evenly divided between an overview of the evidence and a discussion of potential mechanisms.

09:50 - 10:20 - Kinship: Life time memories

Michael Brecht
Michael Brecht
Professor of Systems Neuroscience, Humboldt University Berlin. Coordinator of the Bernstein Center for Computational Neuroscience Berlin, Germany. Scientific interests: memory formation, social touch, social neuroscience and biological approaches to brain function.

Abstract: According to Hamilton’s inclusive fitness hypothesis, kinship is an organizing principle of social behavior. There is abundant behavioral evidence supporting this hypothesis, including the ability to recognize kin and the adjustment of behavior based on kin preference with respect to altruism, attachment and care for offspring in insect societies. Despite the fundamental importance of kinship behavior, the underlying neural mechanisms are poorly understood. We repeated behavioral experiments originally performed by Hepper on behavioral preference of rats for their kin. Consistent with Hepper’s work, we find a developmental time course for kinship behavior, where rats prefer interactions with their siblings at young ages and express non-sibling preferences at older ages. In probing the brain areas responsible for this behavior, we find that aspiration lesions of the lateral septum but not control lesions of cingulate cortices eliminate the behavioral preference in young animals for their siblings and in older rats for non-siblings. We then presented awake and anaesthetized rats with odors and calls of age- and status-matched kin (siblings and mothers) and non-kin (non-siblings and non-mothers) conspecifics, while performing in vivo juxta-cellular and whole-cell patch-clamp recordings in the lateral septum. We find multisensory (olfactory and auditory) neuronal responses, whereby neurons typically responded preferentially but not exclusively to individual social stimuli. Non-kin-odor responsive neurons were found dorsally, while kin-odor responsive neurons were located in ventrally in the lateral septum. To our knowledge such an ordered representation of response preferences according to kinship has not been previously observed and we refer this organization as nepotopy. Nepotopy could be instrumental in reading out kinship from broadly tuned responses and in the generation of differential behavior according to kinship. Thus, our results are consistent with a role of the lateral septum in organizing mammalian kinship behavior.

10:25 - 10:55 - Circadian clocks and their impact on metabolism, aging and longevity

Joseph S. Takahashi
Joseph S. Takahashi
Professor and Chair, Department of Neuroscience, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, USA. Scientific interests: genetics and molecular neuroscience of circadian clocks in mammals, genetic basis of behaviour, healthy aging and longevity.

Abstract: Genetic analysis of circadian behavior in mice has revealed that the molecular basis of circadian clocks involves an autoregulatory transcriptional network that oscillates with a 24-hour periodicity. In mammals, the discovery of “clock genes” led to the realization that circadian clocks are cell autonomous and are expressed in the majority of cells and tissues in the body. The master circadian pacemaker located in the hypothalamic suprachiasmatic nucleus sits at the top of a hierarchy of oscillators in the body, but peripheral oscillators can and do respond to more proximal signals such as nutrients and metabolites. Thus, the “circadian system” in mammals is a multi-oscillatory hierarchy. The lecture will discuss recent discoveries on the neuronal network in the suprachiasmatic nucleus. In addition to controlling the timing of behavior and physiology, the clock gene network interacts directly with many other pathways in the cell. These include metabolism, immune function, cardiovascular function and cell growth to name a few. With respect to metabolism, the timing of nutrient consumption is critical, and we and others have shown that restricting the timing of feeding has many health benefits. The lecture will also discuss the role of time-restricted feeding as a critical factor for aging, health span and longevity.

11:00 - 11:30 - Coffee, posters session and contacts with faculty

11:30 - 12:15 - Keynote lecture "Time as construct and implicit coding space. A neurobiological perspective"

Wolf Singer
Wolf Singer
Professor, studied Medicine in Munich and Paris, obtained his MD and PhD in Munich. Director emeritus at the Max Planck Institute for Brain Research, Frankfurt, Germany. Founding Director both of the Frankfurt Institute for Advanced Studies (FIAS) and of the Ernst Strüngmann Institute for Neuroscience (ESI) and Director of the Ernst Strüngmann Forum. Scientific interests: the neuronal substrate of higher cognitive functions.

Abstract: Curiously, organisms lack specialized receptor systems for the perception of the fundamental dimensions in which they evolve, for space and time. These categories, considered by many as constitutive properties of reality, are constructs generated by cognitive processes in the brain. These constructs are inferred from the evaluation of spatial relations among objects in case of space and of temporal relations among events in the case of time. The evaluation of temporal relations is of immense importance for organisms as it allows them to derive predictions for future conditions by discovering statistical contingencies in the outer world and causal dependencies. Similarly important is the ability to measure the duration of elapsing time in order to structure behavior. This in turn does require parsing of the continuous flow of time into units amenable to some counting process. The first part of the presentation will be devoted to neuronal mechanisms underlying the detection, encoding and storage of relations. It is suggested, that ultimately all relations - spatial, temporal and semantic - have to be encoded in the brain as temporal relations. The second part will focus on mechanisms allowing for the parsing of time. The emphasis will be on the crucial role that oscillations play in providing the time frame for the definition of relations, for the coordination of distributed processes in the brain and for the organization of complex behavior. Finally, and this part is bound to remain speculative at the present stage of knowledge, the apparent paradox will be discussed that the perception of elapsed and remembered time is strongly dependent on context while the reproduction of temporally structured sequences can be extremely precise.

12:30 - 13:00 - Morning Discussion

13:00 - 14:30 - Lunch

14:30 - 16:30 - Paralell Workshops (W)

W1 - The physics and metaphysics of time
| Room Auditorium (there will be simultaneous translation)

Moderator | Axel Cleeremans
Invited presenters: Orfeu Bertolami, Bernard Carr, Daniel Sheehan & Patricia Cyrus

W2 - Precognition and anomalous experiences
| Room Conferências (without translation)

Caroline Watt
Moderator | Caroline Watt
Holder of the Koestler Chair of Parapsychology, and founder member of the Koestler Parapsychology Unit, Psychology Department, University of Edinburgh, Scotland. Scientific interests: replication and methodological issues in parapsychology.
Invited presenter: Julia Mossbridge

Abstract: Controlled precognition is a subset of remote viewing in which the target is known by no one until after the viewing session is complete. Therefore, it is precognitive (knowing information ahead of time that cannot be deduced by existing facts) and controlled (the information is not available to anyone else and therefore cannot be unconsciously communicated). In this workshop, you will learn how to practice controlled precognition. You will be led through 3-5 exercises to help start off your new practice or enhance your existing practice, learn how to use random number generators to select targets after their controlled precognition session has completed, and discover how to strengthen the relationship between the unconscious and conscious minds.


W3 - The experience of time in altered states of consciousness | Room Medicoteca (without translation)

Stefan Schmidt
Moderator | Stefan Schmidt
Professor of Systemic Family Therapy and Head of the Academic Section of Systemic Health Research, Department of Psychosomatic Medicine and Psychotherapy, University Medical Centre, Freiburg, Germany. Scientific interests: systems approaches in health research, psychophysiology, consciousness research, mindfulness meditation, experimental parapsychology, exceptional experiences, placebo research and brain-computer interface.
Invited presenter: Etzel Cardeña, Marc Wittmann

Abstract: Altered States of Consciousness such as those related to rituals, meditation, hypnosis, and ingestion of psychoactive substances can produce different changes in subjective time experiences. Thus, we can get a better understanding of how time is experienced by studying changes during these states. In this workshop a theoretical framework for time experience and altered states of consciousness will be presented, and then we will explore changes in our own time experience following meditation and hypnosis exercises.


W4 - Perception and memory of time | Room Braga (without translation)

Rui Costa
Moderator | Rui Costa
Professor of Neuroscience and Neurology, Columbia University, and Director and CEO of Columbia’s Zuckerman Institute, New York, USA. Investigator at the Champalimaud Centre for the Unknown, Neuroscience Programme, Lisbon, Portugal. Scientific interests: molecular, cellular and systems mechanisms of action generation, sequence and skill learning, goal-directed actions versus habits, across-level approach to study cognitive and sensorimotor disorders (PD, OCD, and autism).

Rainer Goebel
Moderator | Rainer Goebel
Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience, Faculty of Psychology and Neuroscience, Maastricht University, The Netherlands. Founding director of the Maastricht Brain Imaging Centre (M-BIC). Scientific interests: neuronal representations in the brain and how they are processed to enable specific perceptual and cognitive functions, neural correlates of visual awareness, clinical applications in brain computer interfaces (BCIs) and neurofeedback studies.
Invited presenters: Dean Buonomano, Jennifer Coull

Abstract: Humans are capable of telling time over a wide range of scales, ranging from a few milliseconds to days and beyond. In this workshop we will provide demonstrations of how scientists estimate the precision of the brain's clocks, and examples of temporal illusions. Demonstrations will include: 1) estimating the interval discrimination threshold, that is, how precise the brain's clocks are; 2) illusions of time estimation; and 3) examples of how the interaction between language and the representation of time.

17:00 - 18:00 - Get-together Cheese & Wine

April 9

3rd session - The experience of time | Moderator - Caroline Watt

09:00 - 09:15 - Opening remarks

Caroline Watt
Caroline Watt
Holder of the Koestler Chair of Parapsychology, and founder member of the Koestler Parapsychology Unit, Psychology Department, University of Edinburgh, Scotland. Scientific interests: replication and methodological issues in parapsychology.

09:15 - 09:45 - The brain is a time machine: The neuroscience of time

Dean Buonomano
Dean Buonomano
Professor of Neurobiology and Psychology, University of California, Los Angeles, USA. Author of “Your Brain is a Time Machine”. Scientific interests: neural basis of timing, neurocomputation, neural dynamics, and learning and memory.

Abstract: The brain is an inherently temporal organ, indeed, one of its main functions is to store information about the past in order to predict and prepare for the future. Humans, in particular, are unique in the degree to which they can engage in mental time travel, and it has been hypothesized that the evolution of consciousness was driven by the emergence of mental time travel. Because of the fundamental importance of time to brain function, the brain can tell time across a broad temporal range: from milliseconds to days and beyond. But in contrast to the clocks on our wrists, which rely on the same mechanisms to tell time across this scale, the brain uses different mechanisms to tell time across scales. My talk will describe research on how the brain tells time, and the explore the evolution of our ability to not only imagine a potential future, but create it.

09:50 - 10:20 - Remembering the future: Facilitating the recall of future events

Darly Bem
Darly Bem
Professor Emeritus of Psychology, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, USA, and Fellow of the American Psychological Association. Joined Cornell faculty in 1978, and has also taught at Carnegie-Mellon University, Stanford, and Harvard. Scientific interests: parapsychological phenomena, personality theory, beliefs, attitudes, public opinion and sexual orientation.

Abstract: In 2011, Bem published 9 tests of precognition including two tests of the White Queen’s claim that the future can be “remembered” by testing whether rehearsing a set of words makes them easier to recall - even if the rehearsal takes place after the recall test is administered. In the experiment, the participant was shown a list of words and then asked to recall as many of the words as he/she could. Following this recall test, the participant was given practice exercises on a random set of the words. The experimental hypothesis is that participants will correctly recognize more of the words they will subsequently practice than the words they will not practice.

10:25 - 10:55 - Visualising time in the brain: Perceiving the present and predicting the future

Jennifer Coull
Jennifer Coull
Senior CNRS Research Scientist, Laboratory of Cognitive Neurosciences, CNRS & Aix-Marseille University, France. Scientific interests: functional neuroimaging & psychopharmacology of timing (temporal expectations and duration judgements), development of the “sense” of time in childhood, timing in schizophrenia, functional neuroimaging & psychopharmacology of attention and arousal.

Abstract: The perception that time is elapsing depends upon memory as well as incoming sensory evidence. As JJ Gibson eloquently observed “time is a ghost of the events of the world”. Put more prosaically, this means we can simply conceive of time as a mental construct. So if time is a mental construct, we should try and identify where it is represented in the brain. Functional neuroimaging techniques have consistently identified a network of regions, including Supplementary Motor Area, basal ganglia, and prefrontal cortex, that are activated when participants make judgements about the duration of currently unfolding events. In parallel, left parietal cortex and cerebellum are activated when participants predict when future events are likely to occur. But why should time be represented in regions of the brain that have more traditionally been implicated in motor function? One possibility is that we learn about time through action. In other words, action could provide the functional scaffolding for learning about time in childhood, explaining why it has come to be represented in motor circuits of the adult brain.

11:00 - 11:30 - Coffee, posters session and contacts with faculty

11:30 - 12:15 - Keynote lecture "How we experience the passage of time: The body, feelings, and the self"

Marc Wittmann
Marc Wittmann
Research Fellow, Institute for Frontier Areas of Psychology and Mental Health, Freiburg, Germany. Scientific interests: the perception of time in everyday fluctuations of consciousness as well as during altered states of consciousness such as induced through meditation, ganzfeld, floating tank and hallucinogens; neurophysiological and psychological explorations of how subjective time is related to cognition, emotion and body states.

Abstract: We are aware of the passage of time and we perceive the duration of events. The neural basis for the processing of time, however, is still debated. Based on recent conceptual and empirical findings a framework is presented suggesting that physiological changes of the body, the basis of our feeling states, form an internal signal to encode the duration of external events. Neuroimaging studies have shown how increasing neural activity in the posterior insular cortex is related to the processing of temporal intervals in the multiple-seconds range. Given the close connection between the insula and ascending body signals, it is possible that the accumulation of physiological changes over time constitutes our experience of duration. On a basic level, the bodily self, as created by the continuous input from the body, is the functional anchor of phenomenal self-awareness – and of subjective time. The entanglement of self-reflective consciousness, emotion and body awareness with the experience of time is prominently disclosed in the variations of everyday states of consciousness such as in experiences of flow and of boredom. The experience of time and of the self is more strongly modulated in altered states of consciousness (ASC) induced with different psychological or psychopharmacological induction techniques, but also as felt in certain neurological and psychiatric conditions. In meditative states, as experience in the floating tank, or under the influence of psychedelic drugs a peak experience can occur which later is described as culminating in the oceanic feeling of ‘selflessness’ and ‘timelessness’. Related to psychopathological conditions, many individuals with depression, anxiety, and drug dependence show a hyper-awareness of the self and of time. The core features of ASC are thus antithetical to these psychiatric symptoms. Research is accumulating on positive effects of meditation, floating tank exposure, and the medically controlled use of psychedelic substances on psychopathological symptoms. In my talk, the body of work on the intricate relationship between the bodily self and subjective time will be discussed. Research on subjective time will eventually resolve the still open question of how time consciousness is related to the physiology of the body and brain. My conceptualization allows for an understanding of everyday time experience as well as of peak experiences in ASC. It may even help elucidate the mechanisms of successful treatment of psychiatric patients as witnessed over recent years.

12:30 - 13:00 - Morning Discussion

13:00 - 14:30 - Lunch

14:30 - 16:30 - Conversation time

Teresa Firmino
Moderator | Teresa Firmino
Graduated in Social Communication, NOVA University of Lisbon, Portugal. Science journalist at the Portuguese newspaper “Público”, since 1992. In 2008/2009, she studied science journalism with a Knight Science Journalism Fellowship at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), USA. Since 2012, she has been the science editor of “Público”. She published three books of scientific dissemination. In 2008, she was awarded an honourable mention of Ilídio Pinho Foundation’s Award “Scientific Journalism”. In 2012, she received the “Journalism Award” of the Portuguese League Against Cancer and in 2017 the “Ciência Viva Montepio Media Award”.

Participants: Jimena Canales, Anil Seth, Wolf Singer, Joseph S. Takahashi

General Information

There will be simultaneous translation from English to Portuguese and vice-versa, excluding worshops.


Fundação BIAL
Av. da Siderurgia Nacional
4745-457 Coronado (S. Romão e S. Mamede)

Tel.: +351 22 986 6100
Fax +351 22 986 6199

Symposium's venue

Casa do Médico
Rua Delfim Maia, 405
4200-256 Porto

Tel.: +351 22 507 0100
Fax +351 22 507 0199


HF Ipanema Porto  ****
Rua do Campo Alegre, 156/172
4150-169 Porto, Portugal

Tel.:  +351 226 075 059
Fax.: +351 226 063 339

HF Fénix Porto  ****
Rua Gonçalo Sampaio, 282
4150 - 365 Porto, Portugal

Tel.:  +351 226 071 800
Fax.:  +351 226 071 810

Bus transfer

We will provide bus transfer from the hotels to the symposium’s venue, and vice-versa.

The Symposia

In order to provide all the supported researchers with the opportunity of discussing and present their projects, the BIAL Foundation has been organizing, since 1996, the Symposia entitled "Behind and Beyond the Brain".

Since then these Symposia are held every two years gathering the researchers supported by the BIAL Foundation and the scientific community of neuroscience and parapsychology areas.

"Placebo effects, Healing and Meditation", "Mind-matter Interactions", “Sleep and Dreams”, “Intuition and Decision-making”, “Memory”, “Exceptional Experiences”, “Emotions” or the most recent “Enhancing the Mind”, were some of the themes already debated in the Symposia “Behind and Beyond the Brain” by world-known speakers as: Miguel Castelo-Branco (Coimbra), Axel Cleeremans (Brussels), António Damásio (Los Angeles), Hoyt Edge (Florida), Peter Fenwick (London), Eberhard Fetz (Washington), Fernando Gil (Sorbonne), Allan Hobson (Harvard), Jerome Kagan (Harvard), Irving Kirsch (Boston), Stephen Kosslyn (San Francisco), Stephen Laberge (Stanford), Dietrich Lehmann (Zurich), Fernando Lopes da Silva (Amsterdam), Edwin May (Palo Alto), Robert Morris (Edinburgh), Dean Radin (Nevada), Alcino Silva (Los Angeles), Ian Stevenson (Virginia), and Robert Stickgold (Harvard).

From April 6-9, 2022, the 13th Symposium will be held at Casa do Médico, Porto, under the central theme “The Mystery of Time”.

As a result of the developed work the BIAL Foundation usually publishes the Proceedings of the Symposia.

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