Blink Rate Reduced During Reading, Study Finds

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Researchers used a wearable headset device to monitor blinking during various tasks.

This article is part of Optometry Advisor’s conference coverage from the 2021 meeting of the American Academy of Optometry, held in Boston from November 3 to 6, 2021. The team at Optometry Advisor will be reporting on a variety of the research presented by the primary eye care experts at the AAO. Check back for more from the AAO Optometry 2021 Meeting..

When compared with other activities, such as conversation and walking, blink rate is reduced during reading, regardless of reading task complexity, screen brightness, working distance or device used, according to study results presented at American Academy of Optometry 2021 meeting held in Boston, November 3-6. The report shows that the spectacle-mounted eye tracking headset can reliably measure blink rate in situ in a real-life setting.  

The study included 24 healthy adults (28.6±6.3 years; 16 women). All participants wore the headset during 8 tasks (15 minutes each): conversation, reading from printed text, laptop screen, smart TV at 6 m, smartphone, smartphone at 50% brightness, smartphone (more complex text), and walking indoors. 

All tasks were completed in random order, except for the smartphone task. Symptoms were measured via Instant Ocular Symptom Survey before and after each task. The investigators recorded spontaneous blink rate (blinks per minute) and interblink interval (time from the end of one blink to the start of another blink). 

Blink rate was reduced during all reading tasks compared with conversation (P ≤.002) and walking (P ≤.03). Compared with conversation and walking indoors, the interblink interval was longer during reading tasks. Post hoc pairwise comparison revealed a significant difference solely between reading on smartphone at 50% brightness and conversation (P =.03). Ocular symptoms increased after reading more complex text from a smartphone at 50% brightness and from a TV screen at 6m (all P <.001). 

According to the researchers, “There did not appear to be a relationship between changes in blinking and discomfort symptoms.”

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Chidi-Egboka N, Chen J, Jalbert I, Wagoner P, Golebiowski B. Real-life in situ measurement of blinking using a wearable device: establishing a gold standard for spontaneous blinking. Poster presented at the American Academy of Optometry 2021 annual meeting; November 3-6; Boston. Board #30.