Functional MRI of brain activation by eye blinking

Kazuo Tsubota, Kenneth K. Kwong, Tsung Yi Lee, Jiro Nakamura, Hong Ming Cheng

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Citations (Scopus)


Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) was used to map cortical areas that control eye blinking. T2*-weighted asymmetric spin-echo MRI (or BOLD-blood oxygen level dependent-MRI) was used to detect changes caused by focal variations in blood oxygenation. Six normal volunteers and two cases of dry eye (less than 5-mm Schirmer's test) entered the study. The experimental scheme consisted of three cycles of a two-step sequence: (eyes closed)-(blink or blink inhibition). And to minimize contamination from photic activation, the experiments were carried out in a dark environment and the volunteers reported no light perception during the MR scans. In all eight cases, normal blinking (about one blink every 4 sec) activated areas in the orbitofrontal cortex and in some cases, the visual cortex including the anterior portion of the visual cortex and the primary visual cortex. In severe dry eye, blink-inhibition strongly activated the visual cortex even after irritation due to corneal desiccation was removed by topical anesthesia. The blinking process, especially the rate, appears to be controlled in the orbitofrontal cortex. The significance of visual cortex activation in the dark and in the case of severe dry eye still remains unclear; although it may be associated with attention and arousal.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-7
Number of pages7
JournalExperimental Eye Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1999 Jul
Externally publishedYes


  • Dry eye
  • Eye blinking
  • Orbitofrontal cortex
  • Visual cortex
  • fMRI

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ophthalmology
  • Sensory Systems
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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