Intrinsically photosensitive melanopsin retinal ganglion cell contributions to the pupillary light reflex and circadian rhythm

Clin Exp Optom. 2010 May;93(3):137-49. doi: 10.1111/j.1444-0938.2010.00479.x.


Recently discovered intrinsically photosensitive melanopsin retinal ganglion cells contribute to the maintenance of pupil diameter, recovery and post-illumination components of the pupillary light reflex and provide the primary environmental light input to the suprachiasmatic nucleus for photoentrainment of the circadian rhythm. This review summarises recent progress in understanding intrinsically photosensitive ganglion cell histology and physiological properties in the context of their contribution to the pupillary and circadian functions and introduces a clinical framework for using the pupillary light reflex to evaluate inner retinal (intrinsically photosensitive melanopsin ganglion cell) and outer retinal (rod and cone photoreceptor) function in the detection of retinal eye disease.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Ocular / physiology
  • Animals
  • Circadian Rhythm / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Photoreceptor Cells / metabolism
  • Photoreceptor Cells / physiology*
  • Reflex, Pupillary / physiology*
  • Retinal Diseases / metabolism
  • Retinal Diseases / physiopathology*
  • Retinal Ganglion Cells / physiology*
  • Rod Opsins / metabolism*


  • Rod Opsins
  • melanopsin