Blinking has been known as a mechanism that our body uses in order to keep the eye moist. However, a recent study coming from Osaka University in Japan suggests that blinking does more, such as putting the brain into a temporary “reflective” mode.
In the experiments conducted by Tamami Nakano and colleagues observed volunteers watching Mr. Bean videos. The particular video was chosen to expose the volunteers to visually simulating and natural scenes rather than static images that don’t require too much attention and may trigger blinking, based on a previous research done by the team. The researchers observed brain activity both when blinking and not blinking. They also observed brain activity when the monitor was intentionally blacked out.
The results showed that spontaneous blinking activated the brain’s default mode network and deactivated the dorsal attention network. The default mode or task-negative network is a cluster of brain regions that get activated in activities like internal reflections or daydreaming. The dorsal attention network, on the other hand, are regions in the frontal and parietal lobes that are activated when focus is needed on something. The study also showed that the activation and deactivation of the networks didn’t occur when the monitor was blacked out, implying that the absence of visual input doesn’t necessarily have the same effect as blinking. The researches conclude that involuntary blinking causes attention disengagement in the brain and not the other way around.
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