The photobiology of the human circadian clock

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2022 Mar 29;119(13):e2118803119. doi: 10.1073/pnas.2118803119. Epub 2022 Mar 21.


SignificanceThe function of our biological clock is dependent on environmental light. Rodent studies have shown that there are multiple colors that affect the clock, but indirect measures in humans suggest blue light is key. We performed functional MRI studies in human subjects with unprecedented spatial resolution to investigate color sensitivity of our clock. Here, we show that narrowband blue, green, and orange light were all effective in changing neuronal activity of the clock. While the clock of nocturnal rodents is excited by light, the human clock responds with a decrease in neuronal activity as indicated by a negative BOLD response. The sensitivity of the clock to multiple colors should be integrated in light therapy aimed to strengthen our 24-h rhythms.

Keywords: cones; fMRI; melanopsin; photoreceptors; suprachiasmatic nucleus.

MeSH terms

  • Circadian Clocks*
  • Circadian Rhythm / physiology
  • Humans
  • Light
  • Photobiology
  • Suprachiasmatic Nucleus / physiology