Circadian timekeeping can be reset by brief flashes of light using stimulation protocols thousands of times shorter than those previously assumed to be necessary for traditional phototherapy. These observations point to a future where flexible architectures of nanosecond-, microsecond-, and millisecond-scale light pulses are compiled to reprogram the brain's internal clock when it has been altered by psychiatric illness or advanced age. In the current review, we present a chronology of seminal experiments that established the synchronizing influence of light on the human circadian system and the efficacy of prolonged bright-light exposure for reducing symptoms associated with seasonal affective disorder. We conclude with a discussion of the different ways that precision flashes could be parlayed during sleep to effect neuroadaptive changes in brain function. This article is a contribution to a special issue on Circadian Rhythms in Regulation of Brain Processes and Role in Psychiatric Disorders curated by editors Shimon Amir, Karen Gamble, Oliver Stork, and Harry Pantazopoulos.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Clinical Neurology