National Science Centre SYMFONIA Research Project (2014-2018)

"The dual role of the blue light - an interdisciplinary study on effects of the short wavelength visible light on circadian regulation, neural aspects of cognitive and effective functioning, and on the light contribution to degeneration and pathologies of retina"

National Science Centre Research Project registered as 2013/08/W/NZ3/00700

Coordinator: Tadeusz Sarna

Principal Investigators: Tadeusz Marek, Marian Lewandowski


This interdisciplinary research project is aimed at elucidation of the dual role of the blue (short wavelength visible) light for human and animal circadian physiology, neural projections from retinal ganglion cells, and retina pathology. Although the beneficial role of the daylight for human health has been recognized for centuries, the interest in the wavelength effect emerged only recently, with the discovery of the new type of photoreceptors – intrinsically photosensitive retinal ganglion cells (ipRGC), which exhibit maximum sensitivity to the light in the 460–480 nm range. Theses photoreceptors, quite distinct from rods and cones, constitute the so-called non-image forming (NIF) system, which is involved in modulating circadian rhythms in humans and animals. The possible risk of blue light is related to its toxic potential, which may contribute to degeneration and pathologies of the retina. The research will comprise four different fields: neuropsychology, neurophysiology, photobiophysics, and ophthalmology. The originality and novelty of this project is its main postulate about the dichotomy of blue light that reaches the retina in physiology and pathology, and the design of the study that in coordinated fashion will be carried out by an interdisciplinary team of researchers in three different laboratories.

Apart of its pure scientific goals (e.g., elucidating the question of blue light as a modulator of circadian, cognitive and emotional functioning), this project links to important actual public health problems – the ageing society is endangered both with eye diseases (AMD affects about 1.2 millions of people in Poland) and sleep problems combined with depressive-like states. Resolving the dilemma of photoreception vs. photoprotection may help fitting the type of IOL implanted during cataract surgery to the patient.