Extraocular circadian phototransduction in humans

Science. 1998 Jan 16;279(5349):396-9. doi: 10.1126/science.279.5349.396.


Physiological and behavioral rhythms are governed by an endogenous circadian clock. The response of the human circadian clock to extraocular light exposure was monitored by measurement of body temperature and melatonin concentrations throughout the circadian cycle before and after light pulses presented to the popliteal region (behind the knee). A systematic relation was found between the timing of the light pulse and the magnitude and direction of phase shifts, resulting in the generation of a phase response curve. These findings challenge the belief that mammals are incapable of extraretinal circadian phototransduction and have implications for the development of more effective treatments for sleep and circadian rhythm disorders.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Body Temperature
  • Circadian Rhythm*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Knee
  • Light Signal Transduction*
  • Light*
  • Male
  • Melatonin / metabolism
  • Middle Aged
  • Neural Pathways
  • Photoreceptor Cells / physiology


  • Melatonin