Innovation

What Happens When You Blink? Scientists Just Discovered A New Type Of Eye Movement

Most people blink about between 10 and 25 times a minute when they’re awake, adding up to an average 1,200 times per hour and 28,800 times in a day. Scientists in Germany have just discovered a new type of eye movement that is synchronized with blinking.

According to a new study from researchers at the University of Tübingen, a previously unknown movement helps to reset the eye after it twists when viewing a rotating object. The finding was uncovered by attaching tiny wires to the cornea and using infrared video tracking to examine the eye movements of 11 subjects.

Eyes A new study just discovered a previously unknown movement helps to reset the eye after it twists when viewing a rotating object. Photo courtesy of Pexels

"We were really surprised to discover this new type of eye movement and it was not what we had anticipated from the experiment," said lead author Mohammad Khazali. "We had expected to find that another, already well-known type of eye movement is synchronized to blinking."

Researchers studied the subjects' eye movements as they viewed a rotating pattern of dots, and realized that they twisted to follow the spots before frequently resetting. Scientists were taken aback to realize that the eyes reset so they were no longer twisted at all after they’d reached their maximum. This happened at the same time as blinking.

The scientists have dubbed this "blink-associated resetting movement," or BARM.

"To discover such a ubiquitous phenomenon in such a well-studied part of the human body was astonishing to us and we're very grateful to the volunteers who took part in the study," Khazali.

Previous findings have proved that blinking, no matter how mundane and frequent, creates an interruption in our visual perception. It also serves an essential role in lubricating the eye and could possibly provide the brain with short, frequent mental breaks.

Source: Khazali MF, Pomper JK, Smilgin A, Bunjes F, Thier P. A New Motor Synergy That Serves The Needs Of Oculomotor And Eye Lid Systems While Keeping The Downtime Of Vision Minimal. eLife. 2016.

 

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