Tracking Real-Time Changes in Working Memory Updating and Gating with the Event-Based Eye-Blink Rate

Rachel Rac-Lubashevsky*, Heleen A. Slagter, Yoav Kessler

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Effective working memory (WM) functioning depends on the gating process that regulates the balance between maintenance and updating of WM. The present study used the event-based eye-blink rate (ebEBR), which presumably reflects phasic striatal dopamine activity, to examine how the cognitive processes of gating and updating separately facilitate flexible updating of WM contents and the potential involvement of dopamine in these processes. Real-time changes in eye blinks were tracked during performance on the reference-back task, in which demands on these two processes were independently manipulated. In all three experiments, trials that required WM updating and trials that required gate switching were both associated with increased ebEBR. These results may support the prefrontal cortex basal ganglia WM model (PBWM) by linking updating and gating to striatal dopaminergic activity. In Experiment 3, the ebEBR was used to determine what triggers gate switching. We found that switching to an updating mode (gate opening) was more stimulus driven and retroactive than switching to a maintenance mode, which was more context driven. Together, these findings show that the ebEBR-an inexpensive, non-invasive, easy-to-use measure-can be used to track changes in WM demands during task performance and, hence, possibly striatal dopamine activity.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2547
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2017
Externally publishedYes


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