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Sex, Blinking, And Dry Eye.

Ashley Culoso, Cynthia Lowe, C. Evinger
Published 2020 · Biology, Medicine

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Blinking sustains the corneal tear film generated by sexually dimorphic lacrimal and meibomian glands. Our study examines whether trigeminal control of blinking is also sexually dimorphic by investigating trigeminal reflex blinking, associative blink modification, and spontaneous blinking in male and female rats before and after unilateral dry eye caused by exorbital gland removal. Before gland removal, female rats exhibited a lower threshold for evoking trigeminal reflex blinks, a weaker effect of associative blink modification, and longer duration spontaneous blinks than males. Spontaneous blink rate, reflex blink excitability, and occurrence of blink oscillations did not differ between the sexes. Reanalysis of previous data showed that humans showed the same blink sexual dimorphisms as rats. During the first two weeks of dry eye, trigeminal blink circuit excitability and blink oscillations steadily rose in male rats, whereas excitability and blink oscillations did not change in females. Following dry eye, spontaneous blink duration increased for both males and females, while spontaneous blink rate remained constant for males, but decreased for females. The associative modification treatment to depress trigeminal blink amplitude initially produced blink depression in males that converted to blink potentiation as trigeminal excitability rose, whereas females exhibited progressively more blink depression. These data indicated that dry eye increased excitability in male trigeminal reflex blink circuits at the expense of circuit modifiability, whereas trigeminal modifiability increased in females. This increased modifiability of female trigeminal blink circuits with dry eye may contribute to the preponderance of females developing the focal dystonia, benign essential blepharospasm.
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