Blinking temporarily switches off parts of your brain, according to a study published in the latest issue of Current Biology. The University College London (UCL) team found that the brain actively shuts down parts of the visual system each time you blink, even if light is still entering the eyes. Their findings could explain why you don’t notice your own blinks.
Scientists from the UCL Institute of Neurology designed a special device to study the effects of blinking on the brain. The device, made with fibre optic cable, was placed in the mouth of volunteers wearing light proof goggles and lying in a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) brain scanner. The optical fibre illuminated the eyeballs through the roof of the mouth with a strong light, making the head glow red. Thus, light falling on the retina remained constant even when the volunteers blinked, enabling scientists to measure the effects of blinking on brain activity independently of the effect of eyelid closure on light entering the eye.
The study, funded by the Wellcome Trust, found that blinking suppressed brain activity in the visual cortex as well as parietal and prefrontal areas which are usually activated when people become conscious of visual events or objects in the outside world.
Jenny Gimpel | alfa
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