Thursday, January 17, 2013

Our brains change operating modes during an eyeblink.

Nakano et al. suggest that an eye blink briefly gives our attentional network a rest, as activity shifts to the default network:

It remains unknown why we generate spontaneous eyeblinks every few seconds, more often than necessary for ocular lubrication. Because eyeblinks tend to occur at implicit breakpoints while viewing videos, we hypothesized that eyeblinks are actively involved in the release of attention. We show that while viewing videos, cortical activity momentarily decreases in the dorsal attention network after blink onset but increases in the default-mode network implicated in internal processing. In contrast, physical blackouts of the video do not elicit such reciprocal changes in brain networks. The results suggest that eyeblinks are actively involved in the process of attentional disengagement during a cognitive behavior by momentarily activating the default-mode network while deactivating the dorsal attention network.

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