Journal of Neurophysiology

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Eyelid Movements: Behavioral Studies of Blinking in Humans Under Different Stimulus Conditions

Frans VanderWerf, Peter Brassinga, Dik Reits, Majid Aramideh, Bram Ongerboer de Visser


The kinematics and neurophysiological aspects of eyelid movements were examined during spontaneous, voluntary, air puff, and electrically induced blinking in healthy human subjects, using the direct magnetic search coil technique simultaneously with electromyographic recording of the orbicularis oculi muscles (OO-EMG). For OO-EMG recordings, surface electrodes were attached to the lower eyelids. To measure the vertical lid displacement, a search coil with a diameter of 3 mm was placed 1 mm from the rim on the upper eyelid on a marked position. Blink registrations were performed from the zero position and from 28 randomly chosen positions. Blinks elicited by electrical stimulation of the supraorbital nerve had shortest duration and were least variable. In contrast, spontaneous blinks had longer duration and greater variability. Blinks induced by air puff had a slightly longer duration and similar variability as electrically induced blinks. There was a correlation between the maximal down phase amplitude and the integrated OO-EMG. Blink duration and maximal down phase amplitude were affected by eye position. Eyes positioned 30° above horizontal displayed the shortest down phase duration and the largest maximal down phase amplitude and velocity. At 30° below horizontal, blinks had the longest total duration, the longest down phase duration, and the lowest maximal down phase amplitude and velocity. The simultaneously recorded integrated OO-EMG was largest in the 30° downward position. In four subjects, the average blinking data showed a linear relation between eye position and OO-EMG, maximal down phase amplitude, and maximal downward velocity.


  • Address for reprint requests: F. VanderWerf, Dept. of Visual System Analysis, AMC/UVA, Meibergdreef 15, 1105 AZ Amsterdam, The Netherlands (E-mail: f.vanderwerf{at}

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