Scientists at the University of California at Berkeley, Nanyang University of Technology in Singapore, Descartes University of Paris and Dartmouth College found that blinking not only smears dry eyes and protects them from irritation. In a study published in the journal Current Biology, they found that when we blink, our brain moves our eyeballs so that we can stay focused on what we are looking at.
When our eyeballs roll back in their eye sockets during blinking, they do not always return to the same place when we open our eyes again. This shift causes the brain to activate the eye muscles in order to rebuild our vision, says study lead author Gerrit Maus, assistant professor of psychology at Nanyang University of Technology.
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“The muscles of our eyes are rather sluggish and inaccurate, so the brain must constantly adapt their motor signals to make sure that our eyes are directed to where we assume,” says Maus. “Our results show that the brain measures the difference between what we see before us before and after blinking, and gives commands to the eye muscles to make the necessary adjustments.”
From the point of view of the overall picture, if we did not have this powerful oculomotor mechanism, in particular, when we blink, our environment would appear dark, chaotic, and trembling, the researchers say.
"We perceive consistency, not transient blindness, because the brain connects points for us," says study co-author David Whitney, a professor of psychology at the University of California at Berkeley.