Spectral modulation attenuates molecular, endocrine, and neurobehavioral disruption induced by nocturnal light exposure

Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. 2011 Mar;300(3):E518-27. doi: 10.1152/ajpendo.00597.2010. Epub 2010 Dec 21.


The human eye serves distinctly dual roles in image forming (IF) and non-image-forming (NIF) responses when exposed to light. Whereas IF responses mediate vision, the NIF responses affect various molecular, neuroendocrine, and neurobehavioral variables. NIF responses can have acute and circadian phase-shifting effects on physiological variables. Both the acute and phase-shifting effects induced by photic stimuli demonstrate short-wavelength sensitivity peaking ≈450-480 nm. In the current study, we examined the molecular, neuroendocrine, and neurobehavioral effects of completely filtering (0% transmission) all short wavelengths <480 nm and all short wavelengths <460 nm or partially filtering (~30% transmission) <480 nm from polychromatic white light exposure between 2000 and 0800 in healthy individuals. Filtering short wavelengths <480 nm prevented nocturnal light-induced suppression of melatonin secretion, increased cortisol secretion, and disrupted peripheral clock gene expression. Furthermore, subjective alertness, mood, and errors on an objective vigilance task were significantly less impaired at 0800 by filtering wavelengths <480 nm compared with unfiltered nocturnal light exposure. These changes were not associated with significantly increased sleepiness or fatigue compared with unfiltered light exposure. The changes in molecular, endocrine, and neurobehavioral processes were not significantly improved by completely filtering <460 nm or partially filtering <480 nm compared with unfiltered nocturnal light exposure. Repeated light-dark cycle alterations as in rotating nightshifts can disrupt circadian rhythms and induce health disorders. The current data suggest that spectral modulation may provide an effective method of regulating the effects of light on physiological processes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attention / radiation effects
  • Behavior / radiation effects*
  • Circadian Rhythm / physiology
  • Circadian Rhythm Signaling Peptides and Proteins / metabolism
  • Endocrine Glands / radiation effects*
  • Female
  • Gene Expression / radiation effects
  • Humans
  • Hydrocortisone / metabolism
  • Light*
  • Male
  • Melatonin / metabolism
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Photons
  • Psychometrics
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Saliva / metabolism
  • Sleep / physiology


  • Circadian Rhythm Signaling Peptides and Proteins
  • Melatonin
  • Hydrocortisone