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When Your Mind Wanders, You Blink More

The body reflects what's happening in the brain, research suggests

THURSDAY, May 6, 2010 (HealthDay News) -- Increased blinking might be a sign that someone's mind is wandering, a new study suggests.

Canadian researchers asked 15 volunteers to read a passage from a book on a computer. As they read the passage, a sensor tracked their eye movements. At random intervals, the participants reported whether they had been paying attention to what they were reading or whether their minds had been wandering.

Blinking occurred more often when the volunteers' minds were wandering than when they were focused on their reading task. The blinking acts as a physical barrier to the outside world.

"What we suggest is that when you start to mind-wander, you start to gate the information even at the sensory endings -- you basically close your eyelid so there's less information coming into the brain," study author Daniel Smilek, a cognitive neuroscientist at the University of Waterloo, Ontario, said in a news release.

He added that the findings, published recently in the journal Psychological Science, are part of a shift in how scientists think about the mind-body connection.

Psychologists are realizing that "you can't think about these mental processes, like attention, separately from the fact that the individual's brain is in a body, and the body's acting in the world," Smilek said.

More information

Sometimes inattention is a sign of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. To learn more, visit the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

SOURCE: Association for Psychological Science, news release, April 29, 2010
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