Investigating the contribution of short wavelengths in the alerting effect of bright light.

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Physiol Behav, Volume 151, p.81-7 (2015)


<p><b>INTRODUCTION: </b>Short-wavelengths can have an acute impact on alertness, which is allegedly due to their action on intrinsically photosensitive retinal ganglion cells. Classical photoreceptors cannot, however, be excluded at this point in time as contributors to the alerting effect of light. The objective of this study was to compare the alerting effect at night of a white LED light source while wearing blue-blockers or not, in order to establish the contribution of short-wavelengths.</p><p><b>MATERIALS AND METHODS: </b>20 participants stayed awake under dim light (< 5 lx) from 23:00 h to 04:00 h on two consecutive nights. On the second night, participants were randomly assigned to one light condition for 30 min starting at 3:00 h. Group A (5M/5F) was exposed to 500 μW/cm(2) of unfiltered LED light, while group B (4M/6F) was required to wear blue-blocking glasses, while exposed to 1500 μW/cm(2) from the same light device in order to achieve 500 μW/cm(2) at eye level (as measured behind the glasses). Subjective alertness, energy, mood and anxiety were assessed for both nights at 23:30 h, 01:30 h and 03:30 h using a visual analog scale (VAS). Subjective sleepiness was assessed with the Stanford Sleepiness Scale (SSS). Subjects also performed the Conners' Continuous Performance Test II (CPT-II) in order to assess objective alertness. Mixed model analysis was used to compare VAS, SSS and CPT-II parameters.</p><p><b>RESULTS: </b>No difference between group A and group B was observed for subjective alertness, energy, mood, anxiety and sleepiness, as well as CPT-II parameters. Subjective alertness (p < 0.001), energy (p < 0.001) and sleepiness (p < 0.05) were, however improved after light exposure on the second night independently of the light condition.</p><p><b>CONCLUSIONS: </b>The current study shows that when sleepiness is high, the alerting effect of light can still be triggered at night in the absence of short-wavelengths with a 30 minute light pulse of 500 μW/cm(2). This suggests that the underlying mechanism by which a brief polychromatic light exposure improves alertness is not solely due to short-wavelengths through intrinsically photosensitive retinal ganglion cells.</p>

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