Decreased retinal sensitivity in depressive disorder: a controlled study

G. Berman, D. Muttuvelu, D. Berman, J. I. Larsen, R. W. Licht, J. Ledolter, R. H. Kardon

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


OBJECTIVE: To compare pupil responses in depressed patients with a seasonal pattern, depressed patients without a seasonal pattern and healthy controls as a function of daylight hours on the testing day.

METHOD: Patients suffering from a major depressive episode were included in wintertime. The pupil light reflex was measured at inclusion and in the following summer using a binocular pupillometer. A protocol of low (1 lux) and high (400 lux) intensity red and blue lights was used to assess rod, cone and melanopsin-containing intrinsic photosensitive retinal ganglion cell input to the pupil reflex.

RESULTS: The mean group pupil responses associated with a melanopsin-mediated sustained pupil response at 400 lux blue light were significantly reduced in the depressed subjects (N = 39) as compared to the healthy controls (N = 24) (P = 0.023). Across all groups, a reduction in number of daylight hours was significantly associated with a reduction in sustained pupil response (P = 0.007). All groups showed an equal effect of daylight hours on the melanopsin-mediated sustained pupil response.

CONCLUSION: The melanopsin-mediated sustained pupil contraction to offset of high-intensity blue light is reduced in depressed patients. These results further emphasize the interaction of light exposure with depression.

Original languageEnglish
Book seriesActa Psychiatrica Scandinavica. Supplementum
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)231-240
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • major depressive disorder
  • melanopsin
  • pupil reflex
  • retinal ganglion cells
  • seasonal affective disorder


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