New research shows that the brain enters a temporary state the wakeful rest as soon as we blink, perhaps allowing us come focus better afterward


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New research suggests that the mind enters a temporary state the wakeful rest as soon as we blink, perhaps permitting us come focus better afterward. Photo via Flickr user Scinerm


We every blink. A lot. The average person blinks some 15-20 times per minute—so commonly that our eyes room closed for approximately 10% of our waking hours overall.

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Although some of this blinking has a clear purpose—mostly to lubricate the eyeballs, and also occasionally protect them from dust or various other debris—scientists say that us blink far more often than vital for these features alone. Thus, blinking is physiological riddle. Why perform we do it so darn often? In a paper published today in the Proceedings that the nationwide Academy the Sciences, a team of researchers from Japan offers up a surprising new answer—thatbrieflyclosing our eyes might actually help us to conference our thoughts and focus fist on the world around us.

The researchers involved the hypothesis after noting an interesting fact revealed by previous research on blinking: that the exact moments as soon as we blink aren’t in reality random. Back seemingly spontaneous, studies have revealed that people tend to blink in ~ predictable moments. Because that someone reading, blinking frequently occurs after every sentence is finished, while for a human being listening come a speech, it frequently comes once the speaker pauses between statements. A group of civilization all the town hall the same video clip tend come blink roughly the very same time, too, when action briefly lags.

As a result, the researchers guessed the we could subconsciously usage blinks together a kind of mental resting point, to summary shut off visual stimuli and allow us to emphasis our attention. To check the idea, theyput 10 various volunteers in an fMRI maker and had actually them watchthe TV display “Mr. Bean” (they had actually used the same show in your previous work on blinking, showing that it come at implicit break points in the video). They climate monitored which locations of the mind showed enhanced or decreased task when the examine participants blinked.

Their evaluation showed that once the Bean-watchers blinked, mental task briefly spiked in areas related to the default network, areas of the brain that operate as soon as the psychic is in a state of wakeful rest, fairly than focusing on the outside world. Temporary activation the this alternating network, they theorize, might serve together a psychological break, allowing for raised attention capacity once the eye are opened up again.

To check whether this psychological break was simply a result of the participants’ intuitive inputs gift blocked, fairly than a subconscious effort to clear their minds, the researchers also manually put “blackouts” right into the video at arbitrarily intervals that lasted roughly as long as a blink. In the fMRI data, though, the brain areas pertained to the default network weren’t similarly activated. Blinking is something much more than temporarily no seeing anything.

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It’s much from conclusive, however the study demonstrates that us do enter some kind of changed mental state once we blink—we’re not just doing it to lubricate our eyes. A blink could carry out a short-term island of introspective patience in the ocean of intuitive stimuli that specifies our lives.