Daily variation and effects of ambient light and circadian factors on the human light reflex

J. S. Fosnaugh, E. B. Bunker, W. B. Pickworth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Measures of pupillary size and the dynamic light reflex are safe and noninvasive methods to quantify and characterize the mechanism and site of drug action. The effects of variations in ambient light and time of day on pupillary measures were determined. In dark adapted volunteers (n = 13), ambient light was incrementally increased at <0.1, 4, 40, 100 and 200 foot-candle (ftcd). Subjects adjusted to each light level for 1 min before the light reflex was elicited. Replicate measures were collected with the contralateral eye open and covered with an opaque patch. Data were collected every 3 h between 6 a.m. and 9 p.m. The prestimulus diameter of the dark adapted pupil averaged 6.4 mm at <0.1 ftcd and 2.3 mm at 200 ftcd. Constriction amplitude decreased with increases in ambient light from 2.1 mm (<0.1 ftcd) to 0.2 mm (200 ftcd) while constriction and dilation velocities decreased from 7.7 to 2.8 mm/sec and 4.3 to 2.8 mm/sec, respectively. Time of day effects were small but statistically significant and the interaction of ambient light and time of recording suggests the pupil is differentially sensitive to ambient and phasic light stimuli over the course of the day. A patch over the contralateral eye increased pupil size and velocities of the light reflex. In a second study, 10 volunteers were tested twice a day at 4 and 80 ftcd for four days. While there was wide between subject variability, the within subject differences were small. Such baseline data may be useful in describing the normal variations in these increasingly popular indices of drug action.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)545-553
Number of pages9
JournalMethods and Findings in Experimental and Clinical Pharmacology
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jan 1 1992
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Pharmacology (medical)


Dive into the research topics of 'Daily variation and effects of ambient light and circadian factors on the human light reflex'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this