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Artificial lights

Disruption of the body clock and sleep-wake cycle, caused by exposure to unnatural light, can have a profound influence on health, productivity, and wellbeing. These effects are common in shift-workers, among others.

It has long been known that light activates specific receptors in the eye called rods and cones. However, a third type of light receptor has now been discovered.

Neuroscientists at The University of Manchester have shown this receptor to be responsible for a range of important subconscious responses to light, including synchronising the body's natural rhythms to the light-dark cycle.

Lighting design has hardly started to catch up with these new discoveries, with artificial lights engineered only to take account of the requirements of rods and cones.

Professor Rob Lucas's research has established ways of measuring light that predict its effect on these newly discovered receptors.

He is now working with lighting manufacturers to produce improved artificial lights which will activate these receptors, making them more suitable to our biological needs.

Professor Lucas is also working with public policy organisations to produce updated international standards for architectural lighting.

These will be applied to a wide range of domestic, public, and industrial settings, reducing the harmful effects of artificial light and disrupted lighting schedules.

Associated organisations

"Artificial light has been developed to help us see. It's high time we considered the other impacts it is having on our biology."

Professor Rob Lucas / Professor of Neuroscience