Light-induced melatonin suppression in humans with polychromatic and monochromatic light.

2007 study

Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, Human Chronobiology Group, University of Surrey, Guildford, Surrey, UK

The relative contribution of rods, cones, and melanopsin to non-image-forming (NIF) responses under light conditions differing in irradiance, duration, and spectral composition remains to be determined in humans. NIF responses to a polychromatic light source may be very different to that predicted from the published human action spectra data, which have utilized narrow band monochromatic light and demonstrated short wavelength sensitivity. To test the hypothesis that only melanopsin is driving NIF responses in humans, monochromatic blue light (lambda(max) 479 nm) was matched with polychromatic white light for total melanopsin-stimulating photons at three light intensities. The ability of these light conditions to suppress nocturnal melatonin production was assessed. A within-subject crossover design was used to investigate the suppressive effect of nocturnal light on melatonin production in a group of diurnally active young male subjects aged 18-35 yrs (24.9+/-3.8 yrs; mean+/-SD; n=11). A 30 min light pulse, individually timed to occur on the rising phase of the melatonin rhythm, was administered between 23:30 and 01:30 h. Regularly timed blood samples were taken for measurement of plasma melatonin. Repeated measures two-way ANOVA, with irradiance and light condition as factors, was used for statistical analysis (n=9 analyzed). There was a significant effect of both light intensity (p<0.001) and light condition (p<0.01). Polychromatic light was more effective at suppressing nocturnal melatonin than monochromatic blue light matched for melanopsin stimulation, implying that the melatonin suppression response is not solely driven by melanopsin. The findings suggest a stimulatory effect of the additional wavelengths of light present in the polychromatic light, which could be mediated via the stimulation of cone photopigments and/or melanopsin regeneration. The results of this study may be relevant to designing the spectral composition of polychromatic lights for use in the home and workplace, as well as in the treatment of circadian rhythm disorders.
The study can be found at this link.

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