The eye as metronome of the body

Surv Ophthalmol. Jan-Feb 2002;47(1):17-26. doi: 10.1016/s0039-6257(01)00282-x.


Vision is much more than just resolving small objects. In fact, the eye sends visual information to the brain that is not consciously perceived. One such pathway entails visual information to the hypothalamus. The retinohypothalamic tract (RHT) mediates light entrainment of circadian rhythms. Retinofugal fibers project to several nuclei of the hypothalamus. These and further projections to the pineal via the sympathetic system provide the anatomical substrate for the neuro-endocrine control of diurnal and longer rhythms. Without the influence of light and dark, many rhythms desynchronize and exhibit free-running periods of approximately 24.2-24.9 hours in humans. This review will demonstrate the mechanism by which the RHT synchronizes circadian rhythms and the importance of preserving light perception in those persons with impending visual loss.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Circadian Rhythm / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Hypothalamus / physiology*
  • Light Signal Transduction / physiology
  • Nerve Fibers / physiology
  • Ocular Physiological Phenomena*
  • Pineal Gland / physiology
  • Retinaldehyde / physiology*
  • Sympathetic Nervous System / physiology
  • Visual Pathways / physiology*
  • Visual Perception / physiology


  • Retinaldehyde