Studies have shown that wealthy people live longer, but new research suggests it may be their novel experiences that makes them believe they do.
A team at the Norwegian University of Science and Kavli Institute for Systems Neuroscience discovered a network of brain cells that expresses our sense of time within experiences and memories.
The team found that enjoyable experiences, such as vacations and hobbies, create ‘time codes’ in the brain that are more memorable and are easier to recall than events that are boring – making it seem we have been on the Earth longer.
On the other hand, their work also shows that the brain typically does not stamp events that are mundane or constantly repeated, leaving us less to look back on.
Researchers suggest that when you recall on a memory where you whisked away to a tropical island or spent an afternoon tinkering on a vintage car, life ‘feels longer in retrospect.’
Valtteri Arstila, a professor of philosophy at the University of Helsinki, told National Geographic: ‘I think like the main thing is that wealthy people have the option of getting rid of their daily routines.’
Researchers from the Norwegian University of Science and Kavli Institute for Systems found the area of the brain that creates these time codes is located in the medial entorhinal cortex.
They conducted experiments with two groups of rats while monitor this region.
In one experiment, a rat was introduced to a wide range of experiences and options for action.
It was free to run around, investigate and chase bits of chocolate while visiting a series of open space environments.
PhD candidate Jørgen Sugar said: ‘’The uniqueness of the time signal during this experiment suggests that the rat had a very good record of time and temporal sequence of events throughout the two hours the experiment lasted.’
‘We were able to use the signal from the time-coding network to track exactly when in the experiment various events had occurred.’
In the second experiment, the task was more structured with a narrower range of experiences and options for action.
The rat was trained to chase after bits of chocolate while turning left or right in a figure-eight maze.
Albert Tsao with Kavli Institute for Systems Neuroscience said: ‘With this activity, we saw the time-coding signal change character from unique sequences in time to a repetitive and partly overlapping pattern.’
‘On the other hand, the time signal became more precise and predictable during the repetitive task.
According to Sugar, the data shows that the brain is not willing to waste time memorizing moments that are boring.
So the rats seemed to create more memories when they were engaging in free or varied actions, rather than something that is though out and predictable, he added.
Sugar also explained to National Geographic that there are differences between how short-term memory feels in the moment.
He gives the example of students sitting in two different lectures- one was boring and the other interesting.
The pupil in the boring discussion saw time inching by while the other thought it was flying.
When recalling both events, the boring class created fewer time codes that the brain eliminated after a period of time.
The interesting lecture was full of memories and felt longer in retrospect.
However, other experts not involved in the study are not convinced.
Adrian Bejan, a professor of thermodynamics at Duke University, said the novelty of exciting experiences will eventually wear off and the wealth do not have the power to trick time into slowing down.
Benja told National Geographic that although taking fun trips may slow time for a bit, it will lose its charm.
The rich individual will become bored at some point and want to return to the office, which will again speed up time.