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The Impact of Pupil Constriction on the Relationship Between Melanopic EDI and Melatonin Suppression in Young Adult Males.

The pupil modulates the amount of light that reaches the retina. Not only luminance but also the spectral distribution defines the pupil size. Previous research has identified steady-state pupil size and melatonin attenuation to be predominantly driven by melanopsin, which is expressed by a unique subgroup of intrinsically photosensitive retinal ganglion cells (ipRGCs) that are sensitive to short-wavelength light (~480 nm). Here, we aimed to selectively target the melanopsin system during the evening, while measuring steady-state pupil size and melatonin concentrations under commonly experienced evening light levels (<90 lx). Therefore, we used a five-primary display prototype to generate light conditions that were matched in terms of L-, M-, and S-cone-opic irradiances, but with high and low melanopic irradiances (~3-fold difference). Seventy-two healthy, male participants completed a 2-week study protocol. The volunteers were assigned to one of the four groups that differed in luminance levels (27-285 cd/m2 ). Within the four groups, each volunteer was exposed to a low melanopic (LM) and a high melanopic (HM) condition. The two 17-h study protocols comprised 3.5 h of light exposure starting 4 h before habitual bedtime. Median pupil size was significantly smaller during HM than LM in all four light intensity groups. In addition, we observed a significant correlation between melanopic weighted corneal illuminance (melanopic equivalent daylight illuminance [mEDI]) and pupil size, such that higher mEDI values were associated with smaller pupil size. Using pupil size to estimate retinal irradiance showed a qualitatively similar goodness of fit as mEDI for predicting melatonin suppression. Based on our results here, it remains appropriate to use melanopic irradiance measured at eye level when comparing light-dependent effects on evening melatonin concentrations in healthy young people at rather low light levels.

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