Blinking is something you do without thinking, so it’s hard to imagine a time when people didn’t blink. What would the world be like if we never blinked?
It is hard to believe that blinking is a human instinct and has been around for many years. In fact, according to the latest research done on this subject, scientists have determined that blinking is an innate reflex and not a learned behavior.
So, when was this reflex invented? Let’s find out.
When Was Blinking Invented?
It isn’t precisely known; we can safely assume that blinking was invented at some point in time. However, it is impossible to determine exactly when in history this occurred.
Scientists estimate that about 2 million years ago, it developed to keep the eyes moist in early man. They believe that this was an essential factor in human evolution.
It helped humans see better in the hot African sun, considering blinking functions as a way of keeping eyes moist to protect them from debris and dust by spreading tears over the surface of the eye.
Blinking: What Is It Exactly?
Blinking is a process where the eyes close and then reopen. It is done by all humans and serves an important function: to keep the eye lubricated. While this may seem simple, it takes a lot of work for the eye muscles to control blinking.
The human eye blinks between 15 and 20 times per minute. The most common reason is to lubricate the eye, but the process also helps to keep foreign objects out of the eyes. Blinking can last between a millisecond and a few seconds.
If you cannot blink, the surface of your eye dries out, which is uncomfortable and could lead to complications like conjunctivitis.
What is interesting about blinking is that it happens independently; we do not need to control it consciously.
But, when we are under stress or are trying to overcome our fear of heights, blinks begin to happen more frequently, sometimes as often as every 3 seconds!
The rate at which an individual blink depends on the person and the sort of activity they are involved in at that moment. For example, someone reading a book will blink less often than someone engaged in a conversation.
A study in England recently found that people who watch television on average blink less than people who read books. This has led researchers to believe that blinking can help prevent eye strain when reading.
The frequency of blinking can also depend on a person’s emotional state—for example, blinking increases when we are sad or excited.
Fun facts about blinking;
- The average human blinks 15 to 20 times a minute
- The blink of an eye lasts under 1/3 of a second!
- Prolonged blinking can be a symptom of fatigue.
- Blinking increases in frequency in response to stressful situations
- Children blink less frequently than adults do
- Women blink more than men
- Dogs, tortoises, and hamsters blink too!
- Doctors use the rate of blinking to diagnose medical conditions
- We don’t blink while we are asleep
What Is The Cause Of Blinking?
Blinking is the result of a reflex from the nervous system. When light shines on your eyes, it activates the retina sensitive to light.
The impulse from your retina travels through the optic nerve to a part of your brain called the hypothalamus.
There are nerve cells there that respond to both light and darkness. These cells send a message to your eyelids, telling them to close rapidly.
The blink response consists of two phases:
- The first phase is when the eye closes slightly in preparation for a full closure.
In this phase, the eyelid is gently pulled downwards by the muscle levator palpebrae superioris, and the action of the orbicularis oculi stabilizes it.
The orbicularis oculi are responsible for keeping the eyelid closed after the blink has occurred.
- The second phase is when the eyelid closes entirely and is stabilized by a palpebral fissure (the gap between the two eyelids).
People may suppress the blinking reflex if they concentrate on something else or an object obstructing their view.
Function Of Blinking
Blinking (or twitching) is a physiological phenomenon in the human eye. It is an essential part of the vision and an essential reflex for survival.
The movement of the eye serves several purposes:
- Protects the eyes from damage by moving them out of the way of oncoming objects(dust or debris).
- It helps maintain visual acuity; it spreads tears over the cornea’s surface, keeping it wet and allowing visual pigment to function correctly.
- Allows the eyes to track moving objects
- Blinking patterns convey what we’re thinking and feeling. These patterns differ depending on the emotions we’re experiencing.
- People also blink to send secret messages. You’ve probably heard the joke; blink twice if you need help.
Different Blinking Types
There are several different types of blinking, and each type means different things.
1. Reflex Blink
The reflex blink is the most rapid and the fastest in humans. It’s a response to protect our eyes from a bright light.
It occurs when the eye’s cornea comes in contact with some foreign object or particle. A pain receptor initiates the blink reflex, which transmits signals through the trigeminal nerve (a cranial nerve) to the brain.
Reflex blinking is involuntary and does not involve cognitive thought. In other words, we don’t have to think about reflex blinking because it happens before we even become consciously aware of something harming our eyes.
2. Spontaneous Blink
A spontaneous blink is when you are not thinking about blinking and suddenly blink.
As you read this text, your eyelids blink about once every eight seconds. If your eyes don’t blink for just a few minutes, you will become uncomfortable and even start to see double.
This frequency is called the spontaneous blink rate (SBR), and it’s the rate at which we naturally blink.
But what happens when we’re not reading but actively watching a movie or when we’re trying to pay attention to something? The answer is that our SBR increases dramatically.
3. Voluntary Blink
This type of blink is simply one that you consciously initiate. For example, if you are walking down the street and suddenly notice someone you know on the opposite side of the street, you might spontaneously blink as you look over to check it out.
This type of blinking is prevalent in everyday life when people do it on purpose. One could blink in disbelief as a reaction to what another person is saying.
What Happens When You Have Excessive Blinking?
There are times when people blink too much, which can signify some severe health concerns. A person who blinks excessively has an unusual amount of involuntary eye blinks. The number of blinks per minute can range from 20 to as high as 50 in rare cases.
If you blink too much, especially if it is accompanied by other symptoms such as dry eyes, swollen eyelids, and eyes, redness around the eyes, watery eyes, or headaches, make sure to contact a doctor immediately.
Having excessive blinking (eye twitching) is a condition called “blepharospasm.”
If you suffer from blepharospasm, your blinking might be so frequent that you can’t read for long periods without getting tired or even experiencing dry eyes because your eyes aren’t able to spread tears as often as they should.
Blepharospasm can also make you more likely to rub your eyes because of the pain and irritation that you experience.
There are several reasons why people develop blepharospasm, but it is often associated with some form of anxiety or stress.
Some cases of blepharospasm can be treated by medication, while others may require surgery to help relieve the symptoms.
What Can Cause You To Blink More Frequently?
If you’ve ever watched a 3D movie, you might have noticed that the bright colors and rapid movements made you feel like you wanted to keep blinking. This phenomenon is called “visual flicker.”
The rapid movement of the 3D scenes makes your vision flicker, which prompts you to blink more often than usual. This can be annoying, but it’s also nothing to worry you.
Many factors can cause you to blink more often:
- Eye fatigue; can also cause you to blink more frequently. People who stare at their screens(computers or phones) get fatigued quickly.
- General fatigue
- Sleepy or drowsiness
- Irritations in the eys
- Vision problems
- Eye spasms
- Multiple sclerosis
- Wilson’s disease
- Tourette syndrome
Blinking is a pretty natural act for us humans. However, it is not known when blinking was invented. There are many theories about when the blinking started. Some say it was with early man, while others believe it is genetic.
However, it must have been a very long time ago because all mammals blink. We can only speculate when blinking was invented, but it must have been necessary for early man. Blinking is vital in protecting our eyes, among several other functions.
We hope you enjoyed this read.