Red white and blue–bright light effects in a diurnal rodent model for seasonal affective disorder

Carmel Bilu, Haim Einat, Katy Tal-Krivisky, Joseph Mizrahi, Vicktoria Vishnevskia-Dai, Galila Agam, Noga Kronfeld-Schor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Despite the common use of bright light exposure for treatment of seasonal affective disorder (SAD), the underlying biology of the therapeutic effect is not clear. Moreover, there is a debate regarding the most efficacious wavelength of light for treatment. Whereas according to the traditional approach full-spectrum light is used, recent studies suggest that the critical wavelengths are within the range of blue light (460 and 484 nm). Our previous work shows that when diurnal rodents are maintained under short photoperiod they develop depression- and anxiety-like behavioral phenotype that is ameliorated by treatment with wide-spectrum bright light exposure (2500 lux at the cage, 5000 K). Our current study compares the effect of bright wide-spectrum (3,000 lux, wavelength 420- 780 nm, 5487 K), blue (1,300 lux, wavelength 420-530 nm) and red light (1,300 lux, wavelength range 600-780 nm) exposure in the fat sand rat (Psammomys Obesus) model of SAD. We report results of experiments with six groups of sand rats that were kept under various photoperiods and light treatments, and subjected to behavioral tests related to emotions: forced swim test, elevated plus maze and social interactions. Exposure to either intense wide-spectrum white light or to blue light equally ameliorated depression-like behavior whereas red light had no effect. Bright wide-spectrum white light treatment had no effect on animals maintained under neutral photoperiod, meaning that light exposure was only effective in the pathological-like state. The resemblance between the effects of bright white light and blue light suggests that intrinsically photosensitive retinal ganglion cells (ipRGCs) are involved in the underlying biology of SAD and light therapy.

Original languageAmerican English
JournalChronobiology International
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2019


  • Bright light treatment
  • diurnality
  • elevated plus-maze
  • fat sand rat
  • forced swim test
  • seasonal affective disorder
  • social interactions

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)


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