Human circadian, neuroendocrine, and neurobehavioral responses to light are mediated primarily by melanopsin-containing intrinsically-photosensitive retinal ganglion cells (ipRGCs) but they also receive input from visual photoreceptors. Relative photoreceptor contributions are irradiance- and duration-dependent but results for long-duration light exposures are limited. We constructed irradiance-response curves and action spectra for melatonin suppression and circadian resetting responses in participants exposed to 6.5-h monochromatic 420, 460, 480, 507, 555, or 620 nm light exposures initiated near the onset of nocturnal melatonin secretion. Melatonin suppression and phase resetting action spectra were best fit by a single-opsin template with lambdamax at 481 and 483 nm, respectively. Linear combinations of melanopsin (ipRGC), short-wavelength (S) cone, and combined long- and medium-wavelength (L+M) cone functions were also fit and compared. For melatonin suppression, lambdamax was 441 nm in the first quarter of the 6.5-h exposure with a second peak at 550 nm, suggesting strong initial S and L+M cone contribution. This contribution decayed over time; lambdamax was 485 nm in the final quarter of light exposure, consistent with a predominant melanopsin contribution. Similarly, for circadian resetting, lambdamax ranged from 445 nm (all three functions) to 487 nm (L+M-cone and melanopsin functions only), suggesting significant S-cone contribution, consistent with recent model findings that the first few minutes of a light exposure drive the majority of the phase resetting response. These findings suggest a possible initial strong cone contribution in driving melatonin suppression and phase resetting, followed by a dominant melanopsin contribution over longer duration light exposures.
St Hilaire, Melissa A.; Ámundadóttir, María L.; Rahman, Shadab A.; Rajaratnam, Shantha M. W.; Rüger, Melanie; Brainard, George C.; Czeisler, Charles A.; Andersen, Marilyne; Gooley, Joshua J.; and Lockley, Steven W., "The Spectral Sensitivity of Human Circadian Phase Resetting and Melatonin Suppression to Light Changes Dynamically with Light Duration" (2022). Department of Neurology Faculty Papers. Paper 308.
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