Eye blink rate increases as a function of cognitive load during an auditory oddball paradigm

Alfonso Magliacano, Salvatore Fiorenza, Anna Estraneo, Luigi Trojano

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Previous evidence suggests that changes in spontaneous eye blink rate (EBR) in human adults might reflect the amount of attentional demand (i.e. cognitive load) during cognitive tasks. However, the actual direction of this relation is uncertain, since most studies investigated the role of cognitive load on EBR by employing visual tasks only. Here we aimed at elucidating the relationship between EBR and cognitive load in non-visual tasks. Sixteen healthy participants performed two auditory oddball tasks, i.e. passive listening to auditory tones versus active counting of target tones; each oddball task was immediately followed by a rest phase. Throughout the oddball tasks we assessed EBR and recorded the P300 on ERPs as an electrophysiological measure of attention. The results showed that participants’ EBR increased during the active task compared to the respective rest phase. Amplitude and latency of the P300 too differed between passive and active tasks, but changes in EBR and P300 features were not correlated with each other. Our findings demonstrated that an increase in cognitive load is associated with an increase in EBR in cognitive tasks not involving visual attention. These findings are consistent with previous evidence suggesting shared neurobiological bases between attention and EBR.

Original languageEnglish
Article number135293
JournalNeuroscience Letters
Publication statusPublished - Sept 25 2020


  • Attention
  • Cognitive load
  • Event-related potentials
  • Eye blink rate
  • Oddball paradigm

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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