Spontaneous Eye Blink Rate During the Working Memory Delay Period Predicts Task Accuracy

Front Psychol. 2022 Feb 15:13:788231. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2022.788231. eCollection 2022.


Spontaneous eye blink rate (sEBR) has been linked to attention and memory, specifically working memory (WM). sEBR is also related to striatal dopamine (DA) activity with schizophrenia and Parkinson's disease showing increases and decreases, respectively, in sEBR. A weakness of past studies of sEBR and WM is that correlations have been reported using blink rates taken at baseline either before or after performance of the tasks used to assess WM. The goal of the present study was to understand how fluctuations in sEBR during different phases of a visual WM task predict task accuracy. In two experiments, with recordings of sEBR collected inside and outside of a magnetic resonance imaging bore, we observed sEBR to be positively correlated with WM task accuracy during the WM delay period. We also found task-related modulation of sEBR, including higher sEBR during the delay period compared to rest, and lower sEBR during task phases (e.g., stimulus encoding) that place demands on visual attention. These results provide further evidence that sEBR could be an important predictor of WM task performance with the changes during the delay period suggesting a role in WM maintenance. The relationship of sEBR to DA activity and WM maintenance is discussed.

Keywords: attention; delay period; dopamine; spontaneous eye blink rate; working memory.