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Chronobiol Int. 1993 Apr;10(2):94-102.

Phase resetting of the human circadian pacemaker with use of a single pulse of bright light.

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  • 1Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Queen Elizabeth Hospital, University of Adelaide, South Australia.


Since the initial studies reporting that light can alter the phase position of the human circadian system, there has been increasing interest in the use of bright light as a tool for manipulating the phase position of the circadian pacemaker. Exposure protocols typically require subjects to receive 2-5 h of exposure over several circadian cycles. As a consequence, bright light treatment can involve a considerable time investment. However, recent studies indicate that a single pulse of bright light can produce significant phase shifts in the circadian pacemaker. If a single pulse of bright light can produce significant phase-shifting effects, multiple-pulse designs may be unnecessary. This study examined the phase-shifting effects of a single 4-h pulse of bright light (12,000 lux) in 14 male and one female subject aged between 19-45 years. With use of a "constant routine" to estimate circadian phase, a single 4-h pulse of light produced significant shifts in the phase of the core temperature rhythm. The timing of the exposure, relative to the core temperature rhythm, determined the degree and direction of the phase shift. Exposure immediately prior to habitual bedtime produced a mean phase delay in the core temperature of 2.39 h (SD = 1.37 h). In contrast, exposure immediately following habitual wake-up produced a mean phase advance of 1.49 h (SD = 2.06 h). In addition, the magnitude of the shift increased the closer the light pulse was to the individual's estimated endogenous core temperature minimum. There was, however, considerable interindividual variability in this relationship.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

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