Mental time travel

Mental time travel is also known as planning, and encompasses prospective memory (the ability to remember to do something in the future). Mental time travel is an executive function requiring the combination of a number of complex cognitive abilities. For example, it can involve imagining a plausible future scenario (often as a result of current actions), and working out what actions are required now to create the best future outcomes. It may also require thinking about how that future scenario will make oneself or others feel, and then prioritising that future self or other above the current self.

One test of planning is the Tower of London task, which involves moving objects to re-create a displayed pattern in the fewest moves and a limited number of physical spaces to move in. The number of moves taken by participants to complete the task reduces into late adolescence, indicating improving ability with age. Planning and prospective memory are related to the development of other executive function abilities such as inhibitory control, working memory (the ability to hold and manipulate information in mind), and theory of mind (the ability to understand the thoughts, feels and motivations of others).


Click on the topics below to find out more about the science in the film.

Sleep      ***      Hormonal Changes      ***      Prefrontal Changes
Inhibitory Control      ***      Mental Time Travel      ***      Limbic Changes
Sensation Seeking       ***       Risk taking       ***       Social Development
Theories of Adolescence      ***     Evolution      ***      Mental Health
Neuroconstructivism      ***     Educational Neuroscience


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