Demonstration of rapid light-induced advances and delays of the human circadian clock using hormonal phase markers

E. Van Cauter*, J. Sturis, M. M. Byrne, J. D. Blackman, R. Leproult, G. Ofek, M. L'Hermite-Baleriaux, S. Refetoff, F. W. Turek, O. Van Reeth

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

156 Scopus citations


To determine the magnitude and direction of phase shifts of human circadian rhythms occurring within 1 day after a single exposure to bright light, plasma thyrotropin, melatonin, and cortisol levels and body temperature were monitored for 38 h in 17 men who were each studied two times, once during continuous dim light conditions and once with light exposure. After a period of entrainment to a fixed sleep-wake cycle, a 3-h light pulse (5,000 lux) was presented under constant routine conditions, and the resultant phase shifts were measured, also under constant routine conditions, on the 1st day after pulse presentation. The phase shifts in response to light occurred within 24 h and were in the delaying direction for most of the nocturnal period, with the crossover to phase advances occurring ~1 h after the temperature minimum. Phase shifts averaged 1 h, with delays being larger than advances, and were achieved without significant changes in rhythm amplitude. The immediate response of the human circadian clock to a single 3-h light pulse is thus characteristic of 'type 1' resetting.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)E953-E963
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Endocrinology and Metabolism
Issue number6 29-6
StatePublished - 1994


  • circadian rhythms
  • cortisol
  • melatonin
  • temperature
  • thyrotropin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)


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