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Chang, A. - M., Scheer, F. A. J. L., Czeisler, C. A., & Aeschbach, D. (2013). Direct effects of light on alertness, vigilance, and the waking electroencephalogram in humans depend on prior light history. Sleep, 36(8), 1239–1246.
Abstract: STUDY OBJECTIVES: Light can induce an acute alerting response in humans; however, it is unknown whether the magnitude of this response is simply a function of the absolute illuminance of the light itself, or whether it depends on illuminance history preceding the stimulus. Here, we compared the effects of illuminance history on the alerting response to a subsequent light stimulus. DESIGN: A randomized, crossover design was used to compare the effect of two illuminance histories (1 lux vs. 90 lux) on the alerting response to a 6.5-h 90-lux light stimulus during the biological night. SETTING: Intensive Physiologic Monitoring Unit, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, MA. PARTICIPANTS: Fourteen healthy young adults (6 F; 23.5 +/- 2.9 years). INTERVENTIONS: Participants were administered two 6.5-h light exposures (LE) of 90 lux during the biological night. For 3 days prior to each LE, participants were exposed to either 1 lux or 90 lux during the wake episode. MEASUREMENTS AND RESULTS: The alerting response to light was assessed using subjective sleepiness ratings, lapses of attention, and reaction times as measured with an auditory psychomotor vigilance task, as well as power density in the delta/theta range of the waking EEG. The alerting response to light was greater and lasted longer when the LE followed exposure to 1 lux compared to 90 lux light. CONCLUSION: The magnitude and duration of the alerting effect of light at night depends on the illuminance history and appears to be subject to sensitization and adaptation.