Phase and period responses of the circadian system of mice (Mus musculus) to light stimuli of different duration

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

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journal/periodicalArticleScientificpeer-review

91 Citations (Scopus)


To understand entrainment of circadian systems to different photoperiods in nature, it is important to know the effects of single light pulses of different durations on the free-running system. The authors studied the phase and period responses of laboratory mice (C57BL6J//OlaHsd) to single light pulses of 7 different durations (1, 3, 4, 6, 9, 12, and 18 h) given once per 11 days in otherwise constant darkness. Light-pulse duration affected both amplitude and shape of the phase response curve. Nine-hour light pulses yielded the maximal amplitude PRC. As in other systems, the circadian period slightly lengthened following delays and shortened following advances. The authors aimed to understand how different parts of the light signal contribute to the eventual phase shift. When PRCs were plotted using the onset, midpoint, and end of the pulse as a phase reference, they corresponded best with each other when using the mid-pulse. Using a simple phase-only model, the authors explored the possibility that light affects oscillator velocity strongly in the 1st hour and at reduced strength in later hours of the pulse due to photoreceptor adaptation. They fitted models based on the 1-h PRC to the data for all light pulses. The best overall correspondence between PRCs was obtained when the effect of light during all hours after the first was reduced by a factor of 0.22 relative to the 1st hour. For the predicted PRCs, the light action centered on average at 38% of the light pulse. This is close to the reference phase yielding best correspondence at 36% of the pulses. The result is thus compatible with an initial major contribution of the onset of the light pulse followed by a reduced effect of light responsible for the differences between PRCs for different duration pulses. The authors suggest that the mid-pulse is a better phase reference than lights-on to plot and compare PRCs of different light-pulse durations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)362-372
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Biological Rhythms
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2006


  • Circadian clock
  • Light pulse
  • Period response curve
  • Phase resetting
  • Phase response curve


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