Sensitivity of the human circadian pacemaker to nocturnal light: melatonin phase resetting and suppression

Authors

  • Jamie M. Zeitzer,

    1. Program in Neuroscience, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02115, USA
    2. Circadian, Neuroendocrine and Sleep Disorders Section, Endocrine Division, Department of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, MA 02115, USA
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  • Derk-Jan Dijk,

    1. Circadian, Neuroendocrine and Sleep Disorders Section, Endocrine Division, Department of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, MA 02115, USA
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  • Richard E. Kronauer,

    1. Circadian, Neuroendocrine and Sleep Disorders Section, Endocrine Division, Department of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, MA 02115, USA
    2. Division of Applied Sciences, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA
    3. MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology, Medical Education Center 213, Boston, MA 02115, USA
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  • Emery N. Brown,

    1. Circadian, Neuroendocrine and Sleep Disorders Section, Endocrine Division, Department of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, MA 02115, USA
    2. MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology, Medical Education Center 213, Boston, MA 02115, USA
    3. Statistics Research Laboratory, Department of Anesthesia and Critical Care, Harvard Medical School, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA 02114 and USA
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  • Charles A. Czeisler

    Corresponding author
    1. Program in Neuroscience, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02115, USA
    2. Circadian, Neuroendocrine and Sleep Disorders Section, Endocrine Division, Department of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, MA 02115, USA
    3. MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology, Medical Education Center 213, Boston, MA 02115, USA
    • Corresponding author
      C. A. Czeisler: Circadian, Neuroendocrine and Sleep Disorders Section, Endocrine Division, Department of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Brigham and Women's Hospital, 221 Longwood Avenue, Boston, MA 02115, USA. Email: caczeisler@gcrc.bwh.harvard.edu

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  • Author's present address Jamie M. Zeitzer: Department of Neurology, UCLA School of Medicine, Los Angeles, CA 90095, USA.

Abstract

  • 1Ocular exposure to early morning room light can significantly advance the timing of the human circadian pacemaker. The resetting response to such light has a non-linear relationship to illuminance. The dose-response relationship of the human circadian pacemaker to late evening light of dim to moderate intensity has not been well established.
  • 2Twenty-three healthy young male and female volunteers took part in a 9 day protocol in which a single experimental light exposure6.5 h in duration was given in the early biological night. The effects of the light exposure on the endogenous circadian phase of the melatonin rhythm and the acute effects of the light exposure on plasma melatonin concentration were calculated.
  • 3We demonstrate that humans are highly responsive to the phase-delaying effects of light during the early biological night and that both the phase resetting response to light and the acute suppressive effects of light on plasma melatonin follow a logistic dose-response curve, as do many circadian responses to light in mammals.
  • 4Contrary to expectations, we found that half of the maximal phase-delaying response achieved in response to a single episode of evening bright light (≈9000 lux (lx)) can be obtained with just over 1 % of this light (dim room light of ≈100 lx). The same held true for the acute suppressive effects of light on plasma melatonin concentrations. This indicates that even small changes in ordinary light exposure during the late evening hours can significantly affect both plasma melatonin concentrations and the entrained phase of the human circadian pacemaker.

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