September 15, 2022

Blinks, for body and mind

Blinks, for body and mind
Dr. Brandon Hauer
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min

We blink every 3-5 seconds, day in, day out.


 

That adds up to almost 20,000 daily blinks.


 

Our blinks maintain our eye health by providing nourishment and hydration, while removing waste products [1].


 

It is the small, oil-secreting meibomian glands that help maintain this nourishment and hydration. Keeping them healthy with regular blinks and warmth ensures that your eyes are at their best.


 

But there’s more to our blinks than just physiology. Our blinks help give our mind a mental break - a tiny rest period to help us process information.


 

Psychologists have studied the cognitive function of our blinks and identified that the 300 milliseconds after a blink acts as a period of heightened attentional ability [2].


 

That is, we’re better at detecting targets and performing detailed visual tasks of interest.


 

Whether you’re aware of it or not, in the moments immediately after you blink, your body is getting a strategic boost for visual performance.


 

Our blinks frame our waking moments into 3 second long windows to process the moment-by-moment flow of our busy lives – first seen through our eyes – to help create our conscious experience of the world [3].


 

But, screens – social media, TVs, phones etc. – all demand our constant attention. As a result we blink five times less frequently while viewing screens [4,5].


 

We lose the oils, the moisture, the protection for our eyes.


 

But we also lose our focus – our 3 second windows of self-reflection, pause, and rest.

 


 

  1. Hodges RR, Dartt DA. Tear film mucins: front line defenders of the ocular surface; comparison with airway and gastrointestinal tract mucins. Exp Eye Res. 2013 Dec;117:62-78. doi: 10.1016/j.exer.2013.07.027.
  2. Ang JWA, Maus GW. Boosted visual performance after eye blinks. J Vis. 2020 Oct 1;20(10):2. doi: 10.1167/jov.20.10.2
  3. Kahneman, D. (2011). Thinking, fast and slow. New York, NY: Farrar, Strauss, Giroux
  4. Patel S, Henderson R, Bradley L, Galloway B, Hunter L. Effect of visual display unit use on blink rate and tear stability. Optom Vis Sci. 1991 Nov;68(11):888-92. doi: 10.1097/00006324-199111000-00010.
  5. Tsubota K, Nakamori K. Dry eyes and video display terminals. N Engl J Med. 1993 Feb 25;328(8):584. doi: 10.1056/NEJM199302253280817.