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Don’t blink! You May Just Miss It! A Brand New Eye Movement Has Just Been Discovered.

August 18th, 2016. Posted by Dr. Shah

There may be more to blinking than you think. Research has discovered a previously unknown, automatic eye movement that acts as a visual reset function.

One of our constant missions of improving our vision is now better understood thanks to this new discovery.

An article published in the biomedical journal eLife, by the University of Tubingen (Germany) paper describes a specific eye movement linked with blinking that aids the eye in resetting itself after turning to see a an object that is rotating. This role, named the”blink-associated resetting movement” (BARM), aids in reducing eye strain as humans determine their often their ever changing environments.

This research aimed to determine whether torsional optokinetic nystagmus (tOKN) was linked to blinking and helped minimize disturbances of visual perception. The subjects’ eyes were tracked as they looked at a rotating pattern. When our eyes track objects they regularly reset via tOKN so they don’t over-rotate beyond our eyes’ physical limits. Researchers discovered that this resetting was flawed causing our eyes to slowly twist until it’s muscles couldn’t twist any more. After achieving their full movement, the eyes instinctively reset via this BARM.

To find this omnipresent wonder in such an already well understood part of the human body was shocking and the researchers were exceptionally thankful to the volunteers who participated in the study.

Beside giving genuinely necessary moisture to the visual surface, blinking also shields the eye from irritation and quickly distracts our attention to permit the brain to handle it. Darrell Schlange, O.D., partner teacher at Illinois College of Optometry, says clinical confirmation proposes that blinking seems to give expanded power of the stimulus for saccades, tracking, accommodation, vergence and visual attention. The exploration of this phenomenon examines the resetting of the tOKN and motor collaboration with blinks in this manner diminishing the obstruction of the optic flow, improving the coherence of visual information and maintains proper visual processing.

Even though this research may not influence the way eye care professional practice, it does give us a clearer , more comprehensive outlook on blinking, especially now that the correlation between digital device use and eyesight is under fire. Research in 2014 found that subjects using a computer versus reading from paper blinked relatively the same amount of times. Although, computer-reading subjects blink more incompletely. This correlation may help explain evidence of elevated eye strain and lethargy and dry eye from longer than normal digital device use.

AOA recommends device users follow the 20-20-20 rule (take a 20-second break every 20 minutes to look at something 20 feet away) to provide your eyes relief from the digital strain caused by digital devices and reduce it’s effects on the eyes.

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