Imaging individual differences in the response of the human suprachiasmatic area to light

Elise M. McGlashan, Govinda R. Poudel, Parisa Vidafar, Sean P. A. Drummond, Sean W. Cain

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14 Citations (Scopus)


Circadian disruption is associated with poor health outcomes, including sleep and mood disorders. The suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) of the anterior hypothalamus acts as the master biological clock in mammals, regulating circadian rhythms throughout the body. The clock is synchronized to the day/night cycle via retinal light exposure. The BOLD-fMRI response of the human suprachiasmatic area to light has been shown to be greater in the night than in the day, consistent with the known sensitivity of the clock to light at night. Whether the BOLDfMRI response of the human suprachiasmatic area to light is related to a functional outcome has not been demonstrated. In a pilot study (n = 10), we investigated suprachiasmatic area activation in response to light in a 30 s block-paradigm of lights on (100 lux) and lights off (< 1 lux) using the BOLD-fMRI response, compared to each participant's melatonin suppression response to moderate indoor light (100 lux). We found a significant correlation between activation in the suprachiasmatic area in response to light in the scanner and melatonin suppression, with increased melatonin suppression being associated with increased suprachiasmatic area activation in response to the same light level. These preliminary findings are a first step toward using imaging techniques to measure individual differences in circadian light sensitivity, a measure that may have clinical relevance in understanding vulnerability in disorders that are influenced by circadian disruption.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1022
Number of pages5
JournalFrontiers in Neurology
Publication statusPublished - 29 Nov 2018


  • Circadian rhythms
  • Light exposure
  • Light sensitivity
  • Melatonin suppression

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