Blinking and associated eye movements in humans, guinea pigs, and rabbits

J Neurophysiol. 1984 Aug;52(2):323-39. doi: 10.1152/jn.1984.52.2.323.


Recordings of upper eyelid movements in humans, guinea pigs, and rabbits demonstrated that all three species displayed qualitatively similar patterns of eyelid movement. The relation between amplitude, duration, and maximum velocity in rabbits and humans was nearly identical. Guinea pig blinks were faster than those of rabbit and man. Electromyographic (EMG) recordings in humans demonstrated that the orbicularis oculis muscle participated in downward movement of the upper eyelid during blinks and eyelid closure but did not participate actively in the downward lid movement occurring with gaze changes. When looking straight ahead, the estimated stiffness and viscosity of the upper eyelid were 10 g/mm and 0.38 g X s X mm-1 for humans and 1.17 g/mm and 0.062 g X s X mm-1 for rabbits. Upward and abducting rotations of the eye accompanied blinks in rabbits and guinea pigs. Simultaneously, the eyeball retracted (translational movement) into the orbit. These translational and rotational eye movements resulted from contraction of the retractor bulbi muscle and cocontraction of antagonistic extraocular muscles. The data suggested that humans also retracted the eye during voluntary blinks. The retraction produced a rotation of the eye toward a "primary position" rather than a rotation in one specific direction. The relationship between the maximum velocity, duration, and amplitude of the down phase of a blink may be expressed as a single equation, maximum velocity = c X average velocity, where c is a constant. The same relationship, with a similar value for c, also describes saccadic eye movements and rapid skeletal movements. This implies that all three movements employ comparable neural mechanisms.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arm
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Blinking*
  • Electromyography
  • Eye Movements*
  • Eyelids / physiology*
  • Facial Muscles / physiology*
  • Guinea Pigs
  • Humans
  • Movement
  • Rabbits
  • Saccades
  • Species Specificity