Blinking: More Than Just Clearing the Lens 

United States – Almost everyone sees blinking as the eye’s inbuilt windshield wiper, which cleans the driving glass while lubricating it. 

Blinking and Brain Processing 

However, researchers report that blinking is much more than that. It does it even more by making the brain process what it’s watching, as reported by HealthDay. 

That’s perhaps counterintuitive: Wouldn’t you think it would be better to have your eyes remain nonblinking to constantly receive information? 

Strangely enough, today, or after many years, science has proven that the number of blinks per person is more than enough to wet the eye. 

Blinking: More Than Just Clearing the Lens. Credit | Evsngelista Eye Center
Blinking: More Than Just Clearing the Lens. Credit | Evsngelista Eye Center

Rethinking Vision: Blinking as Integral to Perception 

However, Michalele Rucci, a professor of brain and cognitive sciences at the University of Rochester, did a tracking of eye movements when people were looking at different stimuli. 

By doing so, they coupled the data alongside computer modeling to understand that blinking improves tracking of what essayist calls “big, gradually changing patterns” in a field of view. 

Blinking performs such a role by modifying the light impulses as they fall on the retina, a sensitive eye organ. The investigators articulated that it produces a sense of ‘visual signaling’ unique from what would occur if eyes simply stretched out. 

So, “contrary to common assumption, blinks improve — rather than disrupt– visual processing, amply compensating for the loss in stimulus exposure,” said study first author Bin Yang, a graduate student working in Rucci’s lab. 

The findings (concerning visual acuity) were posted in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Science very recently. According to the team, what science has previously learned about the other senses (auditory, taste, and smell) is now more in tune with the visual one. 

To illustrate, once people feel or smell the objects, motions related to these movements assist the brain in discovering the surrounding space. 

Blinking’s Role in Spatial Perception 

As Rucci mentioned, blinking is like any other physical movement that is responsible for forming the overall image of what is seen, compared to other activities that are in perception, as reported by HealthDay. 

“Since spatial information is explicit in the image on the retina, visual perception was believed to differ,” Rucci said in a university news release. “Our results suggest that this view is incomplete, and that vision resembles other sensory modalities more than commonly assumed.”