Bright light phase shifts the human melatonin rhythm during the Antarctic winter

In most species daily and seasonal changes in the light-dark cycle are the most important synchronisers (zeitgebers) of daily and seasonal rhythms. In humans only bright light (2500 lux) appears to be an effective circadian zeitgeber. Seasonal effects of light on human physiology have not been investigated. We have exploited the low intensity illumination of the Antarctic winter to investigate the effects of bright-or dim-light treatment for an hour in the morning and in the evening (a ‘skeleton’ 12.5-h day) for 6 weeks on the plasma melatonin rhythm, together with mood and a number of behavioural variables. In parallel seasonal changes in melatonin were observed. Melatonin is known to convey daylength information in photoperiodic seasonal breeders through characteristics of its night-time secretion profile. Bright-, but not dim-, light treatment in winter induced a marked phase advance of the melatonin rhythm, similar to that found in the summer, without marked effect on the other variables. Thus at least one human seasonal change appears to be light-dependent.


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Authors: Broadway, J., Arendt, J., Folkard, S.

1 August, 1987
Neuroscience Letters / 79
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