Sometimes when I'm squatting around maximal loads, I notice what could almost be described as a doppler shift in the music playing from my headphones for a brief moment. The music (maybe my perception of time?) seems to "slow down" slightly, or everything is processed more slowly. This happens during instants of extreme exertion.

This is a strange question, I know, but has anyone else experienced this? If so, what scientific explanation could there be for it? Any potential harm?

  • 6
    Perception of time delation in "life-threatening" situations has been studied, and subjects do claim "time" has "slowed down", but it only does so in a limited sense. Basically there are two hypotheses: 1. time resolution increases 2. retrospective recollection of the memory changes. Experiments seem to suggest the latter. See this lecture, the part that may be relevant for your question starts at around 19:50, but it is worth watching the whole as it is quite interesting and well presented.
    – BKE
    Mar 3, 2015 at 23:32
  • 3
    Just good old adrenaline doing its job i guess.
    – s3v3ns
    Mar 4, 2015 at 7:43
  • 1
    Sorry, I missed the link.
    – BKE
    Mar 4, 2015 at 9:45
  • 3
    It might also be a matter of raised blood pressure from the strain causing the music to sound duller and lower-pitched, something that we tend to associate with things slowing down.
    – Sean Duggan
    Mar 4, 2015 at 16:07
  • 4
    I was looking around in sources and now my hypothesis is that your experience is more likely to be caused by sudden variation in blood pressure, and not adrenalin induced time dilation. Perception of time duration of hearing does not seem to be affected by adrenaline, this phenomenon seems to affect only visual experience.
    – BKE
    Mar 5, 2015 at 19:48

1 Answer 1


As noted above in the comments, there are two main reasons why this may be happening.

Adrenaline creates a perception of time dilation

Adrenaline can create a "bullet time" effect where time seems to move more slowly as your body routes blood to your brain. It's an evolutionary adaptation much like the fight-or-flight response to help you deal with a crisis situation.

Raised blood pressure results in perceived reduction of pitch and volume of hearing

As per Blurred vision during weightlifting, blood pressure increases during a lift, particularly if you're holding your breath, such as with the Valsalva maneuver. This can result in a dulled quality to sound in your hearing. Things sound more muffled and lower pitched. When a sound is slowed down, its pitch drops due to how frequency works, so when you hear the lower-pitched sound, there's a good chance you're interpreting it as being slowed down.

Lastly, while it's a remote possibility, maybe...

You're having your superpower origin

Watch a few movies involving superheros. A good bit of the time, as they suddenly discover their power, time slows down so that the audience can appreciate how momentous the situation is. If you start to hear triumphant background music coming from nowhere, or if one of your liftmates has started cackling evilly, there's a good chance you're the hero in the story. If so, watch out for glowing green rocks.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.