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In the blink of a brain

Lots of things happen in the blink of an eye; some say the whole of life passes while others say children grow up. Still others of a more practical mindset say your eyes are stopped from drying out in the blink of an eye. All of these may be true but new research has now shown that something else happens in the blink of an eye: your brain switches off.

In the study subjects watched videos of Mr Bean while the researchers monitored their eye blinking and also took MRI scans of their brain activity. The comedic Mr Bean was chosen so that the participants would blink naturally while looking at engaging scenes as opposed to watching something that might be static or not engage attention.

The analysis showed that when people blink they activate the “default mode network” in the brain and switch off the “dorsal attention network”. The default mode network is a cluster of brain regions that become active when you are not focused on the external world but instead are looking inward and engaged in day-dreaming or recollection. The dorsal attention network includes the frontal and parietal lobes and is activated when you focus on something happening in the outside world.

When the screens in the study were blacked out the same pattern did not take place, so the effect of blinking is not simply due to having no visual input. In other words, when you blink you momentarily disconnect from the world outside you and check in to what is going on internally. Perhaps if you are noticing a lot of blinking going on during your weekly presentations at the staff meeting then you might want to make your material a little more engaging.

In other words…oh, I’m sorry what was I saying? I just had a blink out.

Terry Robson

Terry Robson

Terry Robson is the Editor-in-Chief of WellBeing and the Editor of EatWell.

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