Study unravels importance of blinking for processing information

Researchers from the University of Rochester find that blinking has a broader role than simply refreshing the tear film

green brown eye
Pixabay/Bruno Henrique

Scientists from the University of Rochester in the US have highlighted the role that blinking plays in information processing.

Writing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers noted that humans spend a remarkable amount of their time awake blinking.

“Here, we show that eye blinks are not simply a mechanism for refreshing the tear film but act as an information processing stage,” they shared.

The authors added that contrary to the common assumption that blinks disrupt visual processing, blinking acts to facilitate this function – and “amply” compensate for the loss in stimulus exposure when the eyelids are closed.

In experiments conducted by the researchers, 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.

“Humans blink their eyes frequently during normal viewing, more often than it seems necessary for keeping the cornea well lubricated,” the authors shared.

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