Why do we blink so often?

The average person blinks 15-20 times per minute, or once every 3 seconds. Although scientists acknowledge that blinking lubricates the eyeballs and protects them from debris like eyelashes or dust, they say that we blink far more often than is necessary for these functions.

So why exactly do we blink so often then? A paper published in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a group of researchers from Japan suggest that closing our eyes briefly, as in a blink, may help us to gather our thoughts and focus our attention.

The scientists show that blinking is not random. For instance, when someone reads, they often blink at the end of a sentence. If you’re listening to a speech, you likely blink when the speaker pauses for a breath. The hypothesis is that we use blinking as a sort of “mental resting place” in order to shut off the visual stimulus around us and refocus our attention.

The researchers studied fMRIs of volunteers watching a television show and the analysis showed that when the volunteers blinked, the areas of the brain that operate when the mind is in a “state of wakeful rest” were more active. This means that a blink could be a moment of calm and restfulness – not just a lack of seeing something for a split second.

Interested in more interesting facts and cutting edge research about vision? Make yourself an appointment with Olympia eye doctor Dr. Douglas Jeske or Dr. Dani Simpson.

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