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This article is the author's final published version in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, Volume 119, Issue 51, December 2022, Article number e2205301119.

The published version is available at Copyright © 2022 the Author(s). Published by PNAS.


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.

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Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.