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Effects of Background Lighting and Retinal Illuminance on Spontaneous Eyeblink Activity of Human Subjects in Primary Eye Gaze

Doughty, Michael J. Ph.D.

doi: 10.1097/ICL.0b013e31827124b7

Purpose: To further evaluate possible effects of lighting conditions on the spontaneous eyeblink rate (SEBR) of normal young adult human subjects.

Methods: A baseline 5 min video recording was made followed by a second recording under test conditions in 7 different groups of 10 subjects. These test conditions were a simple repeat recording under reference conditions (subjects maintaining silence, with gaze directed towards a target on a 2 m distant whiteboard with the luminance of the reflected light of 35 cd/m2, recording under lower (5 cd/m2), higher (75 cd/m2) and floodlit (150 cd/m2) levels, after pupil dilation with phenylephrine 2.5 %, after sudden increase with floodlights (to 200 cd/m2), as compared subjects engaged in conversation.

Results: The overall SEBR values ranged from 8.4 to 15.8 eyeblinks per minute (mean 12.3±2.8 eyeblinks per minute). These did not significantly change with repeated assessments, no significant changes were seen comparing lower or higher illumination levels or after pupil dilation, but an increase to 20.0±4.6 eyeblinks per minute was seen with a sudden increase in illumination. Conversation increased SEBR to 22.2±6.4 eyeblinks per minute.

Conclusions: Spontaneous eyeblink activity in silence may be slightly affected by background lighting conditions, but such effects are notably less than SEBR changes that can occur when there is a sudden increase in lighting levels (as a glare stimulus) or when assessments are made during conversation.

Department of Vision Sciences, Glasgow Caledonian University, Glasgow, United Kingdom.

Address correspondence and reprint requests to Michael J. Doughty, Ph.D., Department of Vision Sciences, Glasgow Caledonian University, Cowcaddens Road, Glasgow G4 OBA, United Kingdom; e-mail:

The authors have no funding or conflicts of interest to disclose.

Accepted August 27, 2012

© 2013 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.