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Saturday / June 15.
HomeminewsMore to Blinking Than Refreshing Eye

More to Blinking Than Refreshing Eye

Scientists in the United States have discovered that blinking does much more than refresh the tear film – it acts to facilitate information processing.  

In an article in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,1 they said their research disproved the common assumption that blinks disrupt visual processing. 

“Humans spend a remarkable fraction of their awake time while blinking,” the researchers said. They noted that during normal viewing, humans often blink “more often than seems necessary for keeping the cornea well lubricated”. 

“Eye blinks are not simply a mechanism for refreshing the tear film but act as an information processing stage.  

…when the study participants blinked, they became better at noticing details about the overall visual picture of a scene

“By modulating the visual input to the retina, blinks effectively reformat spatial information in the temporal domain, yielding luminance signals that emphasise low-resolution information about the global structure of the visual scene.  

“We show that human observers benefit from these transients and that this perceptual enhancement occurs independently from motor signals associated with blinks,” the paper said. 

In experiments conducted by the researchers, from the University of Rochester, the eye movements of study participants were tracked. This information was combined with computer models and spectral analysis. 

They found that when the study participants blinked, they became better at noticing details about the overall visual picture of a scene. 

“Like eye movements, blinking acts as a computational component of a visual processing strategy that uses motor behaviour to reformat spatial information,” they wrote. 

Reference 

  1. Yang,B., Intoy, J., Rucci, M., Eye blinks as a visual processing stage, PNAS, 2024;121(15) e2310291121. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.231029112

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