Submitted to: Biological Psychology
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 10/17/2003
Publication Date: 1/14/2004
Citation: Pivik, R.T., Dykman, R.A. 2004. Endogenous eye blinks in preadolescents: relationship to information processing and performance. Biological Psychology. 66(3):191-219.
Interpretive Summary: This investigation studied the distribution and performance effects of spontaneous blinks occurring while healthy 8-11 year old children performed an attentional task that required pressing a button to target stimuli. These studies were done in the morning before the children ate breakfast. Blinks were placed to avoid interfering with stimulus perception and were delayed longer following more complex stimuli. Reaction times to target stimuli were faster when subjects blinked, were most rapid when the blinks and button presses occurred close together (within one fifth of a second of each other), and over time response speed slowed on trials without blinks, but not on trials with blinks. Reaction times were slower in females, but all blink-related effects were present in both females and males. These results indicate that blinks not only function to cleanse and protect the eyes, but also indicate times of increased attention and enhanced information processing.
Technical Abstract: Endogenous blinks''those occurring without apparent provocation''are regulated in adults with respect to the presentation, cognitive loading, and response demands of stimuli. This investigation determined the extent to which similar regulatory and response-related relationships were evident in preadolescents during a visual continuous performance task (CPT). As in adults, increased blink incidence on task, longer blink deferral following stimuli with greater cognitive loading, and blink-facilitated motor responses to imperative stimuli were observed. Reaction times significantly decreased when the button press (BP) occurred near (±200 ms) blink onset and increased across the task period on blink-free but not blink-associated trials. More blinks occurred before motor responses in females, and a reaction time (RT) advantage for males on blink-free trials was maintained across blink-associated conditions. From these results, an interpretation is developed arguing that endogenous blinks are a meaningful and integral component of sensory-motor processing, indexing times of facilitated attentional and motor response capability. Author Keywords: Author Keywords: Endogenous blink; Continuous performance task; Attention; Preadolescents; Reaction time; Gender; Dopamine