Human phase response curve to intermittent blue light using a commercially available device

J Physiol. 2012 Oct 1;590(19):4859-68. doi: 10.1113/jphysiol.2012.235416. Epub 2012 Jul 2.


Light shifts the timing of the circadian clock according to a phase response curve (PRC). To date, all human light PRCs have been to long durations of bright white light. However, melanopsin, the primary photopigment for the circadian system, is most sensitive to short wavelength blue light. Therefore, to optimise light treatment it is important to generate a blue light PRC.We used a small, commercially available blue LED light box, screen size 11.2 × 6.6 cm at ∼50 cm, ∼200 μW cm(−2), ∼185 lux. Subjects participated in two 5 day laboratory sessions 1 week apart. Each session consisted of circadian phase assessments to obtain melatonin profiles before and after 3 days of free-running through an ultradian light–dark cycle (2.5 h wake in dim light, 1.5 h sleep in the dark), forced desynchrony protocol. During one session subjects received intermittent blue light (three 30 min pulses over 2 h) once a day for the 3 days of free-running, and in the other session (control) they remained in dim room light, counterbalanced. The time of blue light was varied among subjects to cover the entire 24 h day. For each individual, the phase shift to blue light was corrected for the free-run determined during the control session. The blue light PRC had a broad advance region starting in the morning and extending through the afternoon. The delay region started a few hours before bedtime and extended through the night. This is the first PRC to be constructed to blue light and to a stimulus that could be used in the real world.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Circadian Clocks / physiology
  • Circadian Clocks / radiation effects*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Light*
  • Male
  • Melatonin / analysis
  • Melatonin / physiology
  • Saliva / chemistry
  • Young Adult


  • Melatonin