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How Do Our Brains Perceive Time? The Answer Could Cure Diseases of the Brain

From left, USU Interim Provost Larry Smith; Dr. Catalin Buhusi; USU First Gentleman John Cockett

Catalin “Cat” Buhusi has spent his career asking deeper questions about how one’s brain perceives the passage of time. For Dr. Buhusi, scientifically and literally, “time is money,” and he studies why people treat time and money in the same way, using the same words and operations.

There is much more to be done in human studies, but Buhusi’s work in USU’s Department of Psychology on understanding how timing perception works in the brain has potential for applications in treatments for Parkinson’s disease, depression, Huntington’s disease, autism and schizophrenia.  

Buhusi got his doctorate in experimental psychology at Duke University, where he advanced as a postdoctoral fellow and assistant professor, switching from “fuzzy systems” to “fuzzy rats.” He studied the way animals change their behavior based on timing, or the perception of time. At Duke, Buhusi got his first small grant, which allowed him to ask deeper (and more expensive) questions about how one’s brain perceives the passage of time.

A wonderful timing coincidence led to his meeting Tim Shahan, who convinced him to visit USU on a nice January day. Buhusi visited and fell in love with Logan, the university and the mountains.

Buhusi has been married for more than 25 years to Mona Buhusi, a geneticist turned neuroscientist. They have been able to collaborate on several projects at USU and have many students whom they care for and call their kids. Many of Buhusi’s “kids” are now medical doctors, postdocs and faculty around the world.