New research indicates that the mind enters a temporary state of wakeful rest when we blink, perhaps enabling us to focus far better afterward


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New research shows that the mind enters a momentary state the wakeful rest as soon as we blink, perhaps enabling us come focus much better afterward. Picture via Flickr user Scinerm


We every blink. A lot. The average human being blinks part 15-20 times per minute—so frequently that our eyes space closed for approximately 10% of our waking hrs overall.

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Although few of this blinking has actually a clear purpose—mostly come lubricate the eyeballs, and also occasionally protect them indigenous dust or other debris—scientists say that we blink far much more often than crucial for these attributes alone. Thus, blinking is physiological riddle. Why do we perform it so darn often? In a paper published today in the Proceedings that the national Academy the Sciences, a group of researchers from Japan provides up a surprising brand-new answer—thatbrieflyclosing ours eyes might actually help us to gather our thoughts and also focus attention on the world about us.

The researchers concerned the theory after noting an amazing fact revealed by previous research on blinking: that the precise moments once we blink aren’t actually random. Return seemingly spontaneous, studies have revealed that world tend to blink at predictable moments. For someone reading, blinking regularly occurs after every sentence is finished, while because that a person listening come a speech, it commonly comes when the speak pauses between statements. A team of human being all watching the same video clip tend come blink about the very same time, too, when activity briefly lags.

As a result, the researchers guessed the we can subconsciously use blinks as a kind of psychological resting point, to summary shut turn off visual stimuli and allow us to focus our attention. To check the idea, theyput 10 different volunteers in one fMRI maker and had actually them watchthe TV show “Mr. Bean” (they had actually used the same display in their previous work on blinking, showing that it come at implicit break points in the video). They then monitored which locations of the brain showed raised or decreased task when the research participants blinked.

Their analysis showed that when the Bean-watchers blinked, mental activity briefly spiked in areas related come the default network, locations of the mind that operate as soon as the mind is in a state of wakeful rest, rather than concentrating on the external world. Momentary activation the this alternate network, they theorize, can serve together a psychological break, enabling for increased attention capacity as soon as the eyes are opened up again.

To check whether this mental break was merely a result of the participants’ visual inputs being blocked, quite than a subconscious initiative to clear your minds, the researchers likewise manually placed “blackouts” right into the video clip at arbitrarily intervals that lasted approximately as lengthy as a blink. In the fMRI data, though, the brain areas related to the default network weren’t likewise activated. Blinking is something much more than temporarily not seeing anything.

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It’s much from conclusive, but the research demonstrates that us do go into some sort of altered mental state once we blink—we’re not just doing it to lubricate ours eyes. A blink could carry out a short-lived island of introspective patience in the ocean of intuitive stimuli that defines our lives.