Cerebral neural correlates of differential melanopic photic stimulation in humans

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Photic stimulation of rods, cones and intrinsically photosensitive melanopsin-containing retinal ganglion cells (ipRGCs) mediates non-visual light responses, including entrainment of circadian rhythms and pupillary light reflex. Unlike visual responses to photic stimulation, the cerebral correlates of non-visual light responses in humans remains elusive. In this study, we used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) in 14 healthy young participants, to localize cerebral regions which are differentially activated by metameric light that gave rise to different levels of melanopic excitation. Mean blood oxygen-level dependent (BOLD) responses disclosed bilateral activation of the frontal eye fields during exposure to light geared towards melanopsin. Furthermore, multivariate pattern analyses showed distinct bilateral pattern activity in the inferior temporal gyri and the caudate nuclei. Taken together, our findings suggest that melanopsin-based photoreception activates a cerebral network including frontal regions, classically involved in attention and ocular motor responses.

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