Age, lens transmittance, and the possible effects of light on melatonin suppression

Ophthalmic Physiol Opt. 2003 Mar;23(2):181-7. doi: 10.1046/j.1475-1313.2003.00105.x.


Recently it has been suggested that a previously undetected, rhodopsin-based, visual pigment, located in some retinal ganglion cells and having a peak sensitivity around 460 nm, may be responsible for light-induced melatonin suppression and, perhaps, maintenance of the circadian rhythm. Using data from the literature, it is shown that, as absorption in the crystalline lens for shorter visible wavelengths increases substantially with age, while the pupil diameter tends to decrease, the effective retinal exposure received under the same ambient lighting conditions by the pigment is almost 10 times lower in an old, as compared with a young, eye. Interestingly, replacement of the old crystalline lens by an intraocular implant restores the exposure to youthful levels. The possible effects of these changes with age on circadian rhythms are discussed.

MeSH terms

  • Aging / physiology*
  • Circadian Rhythm*
  • Cornea / physiology
  • Humans
  • Lens, Crystalline / physiology*
  • Melatonin / physiology*
  • Pupil
  • Retina / physiology*


  • Melatonin