You must have heard the phrase 'Blink and
you'll miss it' numerous times. Now how about this, 'Blink and reboot your
brain'. After all even the brain needs a break, a little rest.
Blinking keeps the eyes moist and helps to remove
small particles and dust from the eyes.
Humans need a good 8 to 9 hours of sleep or
'shut-eye' every night to stay healthy. We may seldom notice this, but on an average, our eyes blink 15 to
20 times per minute. A recent study shows that the human brain utilizes that
tiny moment of shut-eye to relax a bit and recharge itself. Blinking reduces blood
flow to regions associated with paying close attention to the surrounding
This study is published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academies of Science
, in which
researchers from Japan's Osaka University evaluated the changes in brain
activity that occur immediately following blinking.
The researchers asked 20 healthy adult
volunteers to watch clips of the "Mr Bean" TV show while scanning
their brains using a functional MRI (fMRI) scan and recording their
When the participants blinked, the researchers
detected a momentary stand-down or a power-down within the brain's areas
involved with processing visual stimuli and areas that manage attention. The brain's 'idle' setting steps
up to fill the momentary lapse in attention; in this mode, thoughts wander
freely into the past and the future.
The researchers say that blinking tends to occur
at natural breaks in attention, such as at the end of sentences when reading,
pauses in speech, and moments in movies where there is less happening.
Other studies conducted on blinking have shown
that people have been found to blink less while telling a lie. However, it
was found the liar will blink far more frequently than a truth-teller in the
seconds after telling the lie.
The researchers say that their results suggest that
blinking actively helps to disengage our attention during a cognitive task;
however this theory merits further research.