Circadian response reduction in light and response restoration in darkness: A "skeleton" light pulse PRC study in mice (Mus musculus)

M. Comas*, D. G.M. Beersma, K. Spoelstra, S. Daan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journal/periodicalArticleScientificpeer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)


Entrainment may involve responses to dawn, to dusk, and to the light in between these transitions. Previous studies showed that the circadian system responds to only 2 light pulses, one at the beginning and one at the end of the day, in a similar way as to a full photoperiod, as long as the photoperiod is less than approximately 1/2 τ. The authors used a double 1-h light pulse protocol with different intervals of darkness in between (1, 2, 4, 7, 10, and 16 h) to study the phase responses of mice. The phase response curves obtained were compared to full light pulse PRCs of corresponding durations. Up to 6 hours, phase responses induced by double light pulses are virtually the same as by a corresponding full light pulse. The authors made a simple phase-only model to estimate the response reduction due to light exposure and response restoration due to dark exposure of the system. In this model, they assumed a 100% contribution of the first 1-h light pulse and fitted the reduction factor for the second light pulse to yield the best fit to the observations. The results suggest that after 1 h of light followed by less than 4 h of darkness, there is a considerable reduction in response to the second light pulse. Full response restoration requires more than 10 h of darkness. To investigate the influence of the duration of light on the response saturation, the authors performed a second series of experiments where the duration of the 2 light pulses was varied from 4 to 60 min each with a fixed duration of the stimulus (4 h). The response to 2 light pulses saturates when they are between 30 and 60 min long. In conclusion, double pulses replace single full light pulses of a corresponding duration of up to 6 h due to a response reduction during light, combined with response restoration during darkness. By the combined response reduction and response restoration, mice can maintain stable entrainment to the external LD cycle without being continuously exposed to it.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)432-444
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Biological Rhythms
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2007


  • Circadian clock
  • Mus musculus
  • Phase resetting
  • Phase response curve


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