Interval timing in children: effects of auditory and visual pacing stimuli and relationships with reading and attention variables

Emma Birkett, Joel Talcott

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Motor timing tasks have been employed in studies of neurodevelopmental disorders such as developmental dyslexia and ADHD, where they provide an index of temporal processing ability. Investigations of these disorders have used different stimulus parameters within the motor timing tasks which are likely to affect performance measures. Here we assessed the effect of auditory and visual pacing stimuli on synchronised motor timing performance and its relationship with cognitive and behavioural predictors that are commonly used in the diagnosis of these highly prevalent developmental disorders. Twenty- one children (mean age 9.6 years) completed a finger tapping task in two stimulus conditions, together with additional psychometric measures. As anticipated, synchronisation to the beat (ISI 329 ms) was less accurate in the visually paced condition. Decomposition of timing variance indicated that this effect resulted from differences in the way that visual and auditory paced tasks are processed by central timekeeping and associated peripheral implementation systems. The ability to utilise an efficient processing strategy on the visual task correlated with both reading and sustained attention skills. Dissociations between these patterns of relationship across task modality suggest that not all timing tasks are equivalent.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere42820
Number of pages9
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 10 Aug 2012

Bibliographical note

© Birkett, Talcott. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.


  • temporal processing
  • ADHD
  • motor timing
  • dyslexia
  • attention
  • reading
  • auditory
  • visual


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