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During dusk and dawn, the ambient illumination undergoes drastic changes in irradiance (or intensity) and spectrum (or color). While the former is a well-studied factor in synchronizing behavior and physiology to the earth's 24-h rotation, color sensitivity in the regulation of circadian rhythms has not been systematically studied. Drawing on the concept of color opponency, a well-known property of image-forming vision in many vertebrates (including humans), we consider how the spectral shifts during twilight are encoded by a color-opponent sensory system for non-image-forming (NIF) visual functions, including phase shifting and melatonin suppression. We review electrophysiological evidence for color sensitivity in the pineal/parietal organs of fish, amphibians and reptiles, color coding in neurons in the circadian pacemaker in mice as well as sporadic evidence for color sensitivity in NIF visual functions in birds and mammals. Together, these studies suggest that color opponency may be an important modulator of light-driven physiological and behavioral responses.

Original publication

DOI

10.1016/j.neubiorev.2017.04.016

Type

Journal article

Journal

Neurosci Biobehav Rev

Publication Date

07/2017

Volume

78

Pages

24 - 33

Keywords

Circadian rhythms, Color opponency, Color vision, Non-image-forming vision, Retina, Sleep-wake cycles