Ever wonder why time seems to slow down during moments of danger?
According to David Eagleman, a scientist at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston:
When a person is scared, a brain area called the amygdala becomes more active, laying down an extra set of memories that go along with those normally taken care of by other parts of the brain.
“In this way, frightening events are associated with richer and denser memories,” Eagleman explained. “And the more memory you have of an event, the longer you believe it took.”
Eagleman added this illusion “is related to the phenomenon that time seems to speed up as you grow older. When you’re a child, you lay down rich memories for all your experiences; when you’re older, you’ve seen it all before and lay down fewer memories. Therefore, when a child looks back at the end of a summer, it seems to have lasted forever; adults think it zoomed by.”
How did he test this theory?
Researchers dropped volunteers from great heights. Scientists had volunteers dive backward with no ropes attached, into a special net that helped break their fall. They reached 70 mph during the roughly three-second, 150-foot drop.
“It’s the scariest thing I have ever done,” said David. “I knew it was perfectly safe, and I also knew that it would be the perfect way to make people feel as though an event took much longer than it actually did.”
Indeed, volunteers estimated their own fall lasted about a third longer than dives they saw other volunteers take.
Now you know.
[Photo Via: SoldiersMediaCenter]