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May 1997

The Role of Blink Adaptation in the Pathophysiology of Benign Essential Blepharospasm

Author Affiliations

From the Departments of Ophthalmology (Drs Hasan, Baker, Sun, Chuke, Cowen, and Porter and Mr Rouholiman), Neurology (Dr Baker), and Anatomy and Neurobiology (Dr Porter), University of Kentucky Medical Center, Lexington.

Arch Ophthalmol. 1997;115(5):631-636. doi:10.1001/archopht.1997.01100150633010

Objective:  To investigate eyelid movements in patients with benign essential blepharospasm (BEB), with an emphasis on the characterization of the kinematics of normal and spastic blinks, assessment of interocular differences, and further delineation of the role of adaptive blink mechanisms in eyelid movement disorders.

Patients and Methods:  The electromagnetic search coil technique was used to record the metrics of blinks bilaterally in 5 patients with untreated BEB. Eyelid kinematics and the main-sequence (peak velocity vs amplitude) relationships were analyzed.

Results:  Patients with BEB exhibited a decrease in blink amplitude and peak velocity. Moreover, the main-sequence slope was decreased bilaterally. Spasms were bilateral and relatively conjugate. There was no change in the coordination of normal blinking across the 2 eyelids.

Conclusions:  These data demonstrate the operation of the adaptive regulation of blinking in an eyelid movement disorder. The findings suggest that the adaptive regulation of blink is a bilateral event. Blink-adaptive control systems can act on the blink reflex excitability and main-sequence relationships, changing these either together or independently. The hyperexcitable blink reflex of BEB is met by what is believed to be an adaptive decrease in the main-sequence slope that would decrease the strength of debilitating spasms. Collectively, these data extend the knowledge of the pathophysiology of BEB and, perhaps more important, establish the role of blink system plasticity in eyelid movement disorders.

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