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Psychophysiology. 2008 Sep;45(5):679-87. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-8986.2008.00681.x. Epub 2008 Jul 24.

Blink before and after you think: blinks occur prior to and following cognitive load indexed by pupillary responses.

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University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Department of Psychiatry, Pittsburgh, PA 15213, USA.


Pupil dilation and blinks provide complementary, mutually exclusive indices of information processing. Though each index is associated with cognitive load, the occurrence of a blink precludes the measurement of pupil diameter. These indices have generally been assessed in independent literatures. We examine the extent to which these measures are related on two cognitive tasks using a novel method that quantifies the proportion of trials on which blinks occur at each sample acquired during the trial. This measure allows cross-correlation of continuous pupil-dilation and blink waveforms. Results indicate that blinks occur during early sensory processing and following sustained information processing. Pupil dilation better reflects sustained information processing. Together these indices provide a rich picture of the time course of information processing, from early reactivity through sustained cognition, and after stimulus-related cognition ends.

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