Eye Blink Rate as a biological marker of Mild Cognitive Impairment

Int J Psychophysiol. 2014 Jul;93(1):12-6. doi: 10.1016/j.ijpsycho.2013.07.010. Epub 2013 Aug 1.


We investigated the relationship between dopamine activity (DA), as measured by Eye Blink Rate (EBR), and cognitive function in old adults with Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) and healthy controls. Research has been inconclusive so far about the factors responsible for the transition from MCI to dementia. However, some studies suggest that cortical hyperexcitability in very early stages of pathological aging may progressively lead to cell death, and thus to Alzheimer's disease. Hence, we speculated that a dysfunction of DA activity, as measured by EBR, may characterize people with MCI, and account for their poor cognitive function. Thirty three (33) healthy and thirty six (36) old adults with MCI (Mean age = 67.52 y.o.) participated in this study. The EBR was recorded under resting conditions, using two gold skin electrodes above and below the left eye. Cognitive function was assessed with a battery of neuropsychological tests. Participants with MCI showed significantly higher EBR than the healthy controls. Also, EBR was negatively related to scores on the Montreal Cognitive Assessment test (MoCA) test. We propose that abnormally increased dopamine activity, as indexed by relatively high EBR, may be partially responsible for the neurotransmitter imbalance in the central nervous system of people with MCI, and the overall impaired cognitive performance. In addition, this finding suggests that an abnormally high EBR may be a potential biomarker of the transition from healthy aging to dementia.

Keywords: Biological marker; Dopamine; Eye Blink Rate; MCI.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Attention / physiology
  • Biomarkers
  • Blinking*
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / psychology*
  • Dopamine / metabolism
  • Electrooculography
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory / physiology
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuropsychological Tests


  • Biomarkers
  • Dopamine