Birth Control Makes Women Blink More

March 25, 2017 at 5:14 pm Leave a comment

Blinking is a critical function for most animals. Few of us give it much thought, however, since blinking is a spontaneous action that we have little control over—similar to breathing. Although science has revealed many of the mechanisms behind blinking, there are still some mysteries and odd inconsistencies.

eyeball

The act of blinking, which is largely controlled by the central nervous system, keeps eyes moist and free of irritants such as dust and dirt. Blinking can also take the form of a reflex response to protect the eyes from an approaching object. Even though blinking technically results in a loss of vision for a few seconds, it’s not noticeable. This is because the brain fills in the gaps—it “remembers” the scene (this is also how the brain accounts for blind spots!). In a recent study, scientists found that the brain has a second trick for reducing visual disruptions. When you blink, your eyes reposition to maintain focus on what you were looking at. The brain does this by tracking the movements of both the person and any objects that were in view. In the experiment, participants stared at a dot that slowly moved. The movement wasn’t dramatic enough for the participants to notice but the brain took note, repositioning their eyeballs to follow the dot every time they blinked. The researchers explained that this function is necessary to stabilize our vision, preventing a shaky camera effect.

There are still some blinking mysteries that modern science has yet to solve. Women on birth control, for example, blink much more rapidly on average. The reason is unknown and the research team studying the phenomenon concluded: “The 32 percent increase in mean blink rate for females taking BC pills suggests that the pills affect at least one of the mechanisms that control spontaneous blinking, but it is unclear how they accomplish this.” Another strange disparity is between babies and adults. Human infants blink less frequently than adults and scientists haven’t pinpointed the reason. One theory is that they spend more time sleeping and require less lubrication to keep their eyes moist.

We tend to take our bodies for granted, forgetting all of the involuntary actions that keep us alive. Blinking is especially important but modern science has yet to solve a number of discrepancies. There are even conflicting studies out there—some experiments have shown differences between the sexes while others didn’t find any significant variation. In the future, researchers may finally figure out the causes behind these strange findings but until then, blinking remains a bit of a mystery.

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Photo: Matteo Ferraresso (cc share alike 2.0)

Sources: physiology.org, cell.com, nih.gov, wiley.com

 

Entry filed under: Health and Beauty. Tags: , , , , .

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