Prefrontal cortex neurons encode ambient light intensity differentially across regions and layers

Elyashiv Zangen, Shira Hadar, Christopher Lawrence, Mustafa Obeid, Hala Rasras, Ella Hanzin, Ori Aslan, Eyal Zur, Nadav Schulcz, Daniel Cohen-Hatab, Yona Samama, Sarah Nir, Yi Li, Irina Dobrotvorskia, Shai Sabbah

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


While light can affect emotional and cognitive processes of the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC), no light-encoding was hitherto identified in this region. Here, extracellular recordings in awake mice revealed that over half of studied mPFC neurons showed photosensitivity, that was diminished by inhibition of intrinsically photosensitive retinal ganglion cells (ipRGCs), or of the upstream thalamic perihabenular nucleus (PHb). In 15% of mPFC photosensitive neurons, firing rate changed monotonically along light-intensity steps and gradients. These light-intensity-encoding neurons comprised four types, two enhancing and two suppressing their firing rate with increased light intensity. Similar types were identified in the PHb, where they exhibited shorter latency and increased sensitivity. Light suppressed prelimbic activity but boosted infralimbic activity, mirroring the regions’ contrasting roles in fear-conditioning, drug-seeking, and anxiety. We posit that prefrontal photosensitivity represents a substrate of light-susceptible, mPFC-mediated functions, which could be ultimately studied as a therapeutical target in psychiatric and addiction disorders.

Original languageEnglish
Article number5501
JournalNature Communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2024

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Chemistry
  • General Biochemistry,Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Physics and Astronomy


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