Consideration of three types of spontaneous eyeblink activity in normal humans: during reading and video display terminal use, in primary gaze, and while in conversation

Optom Vis Sci. 2001 Oct;78(10):712-25. doi: 10.1097/00006324-200110000-00011.


Purpose: To consider the conditions under which the so-called spontaneous (endogenous) eyeblink activity has been assessed by different investigators over the last 75 years and to consider the most appropriate terminology. The reason for this analysis was to try to identify why such different values for the spontaneous eyeblink rate (SEBR) have been reported.

Methods: A retrospective evaluation of published articles was carried out to identify whether the SEBR assessments were consistently dependent on the activity of the subjects while spontaneous eyeblink activity was being investigated. These were compared with assessments of SEBR in young adult subjects under equivalent conditions.

Results: Assessments of spontaneous eyeblink activity revealed that SEBR in a reading posture is lower than that in primary gaze, and SEBR is higher when subjects are in conversation. Such differences are also generally found in literature reports, especially if the primary gaze assessment is carried in silence. Electrophysiological measures of SEBR yield slightly higher values compared with observational techniques. Statistical analysis (with calculation of 95% confidence interval values) indicate that reading-SEBR should be between 1.4 and 14.4 eyeblinks/min, primary gaze-SEBR between 8.0 and 21.0 eyeblinks/min and conversational-SEBR between 10.5 and 32.5 eyeblinks/min for normal adults.

Conclusions: It is inappropriate to simply state a value for spontaneous eyeblink rate because it is so dependent on experimental conditions. It is further proposed that reports of SEBR measures should be prefixed by these experimental conditions, namely reading-SEBR, primary gaze-SEBR (in silence) and conversational-SEBR.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Blinking / physiology*
  • Computer Terminals
  • Electrophysiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Reading*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Speech*
  • Visual Perception*