A physiologically based mathematical model of melatonin including ocular light suppression and interactions with the circadian pacemaker

J Pineal Res. 2007 Oct;43(3):294-304. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-079X.2007.00477.x.


The rhythm of plasma melatonin concentration is currently the most accurate marker of the endogenous human circadian pacemaker. A number of methods exist to estimate circadian phase and amplitude from the observed melatonin rhythm. However, almost all these methods are limited because they depend on the shape and amplitude of the melatonin pulse, which vary among individuals and can be affected by environmental influences, especially light. Furthermore, these methods are not based on the underlying known physiology of melatonin secretion and clearance, and therefore cannot accurately quantify changes in secretion and clearance observed under different experimental conditions. A published physiologically-based mathematical model of plasma melatonin can estimate synthesis onset and offset of melatonin under dim light conditions. We amended this model to include the known effect of melatonin suppression by ocular light exposure and to include a new compartment to model salivary melatonin concentration, which is widely used in clinical settings to determine circadian phase. This updated model has been incorporated into an existing mathematical model of the human circadian pacemaker and can be used to simulate experimental protocols under a number of conditions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Circadian Rhythm / drug effects*
  • Circadian Rhythm / physiology*
  • Computer Simulation
  • Humans
  • Light*
  • Melatonin / pharmacokinetics
  • Melatonin / pharmacology*
  • Models, Biological*
  • Saliva / drug effects


  • Melatonin