Better Than Blue Light

Jay Neitz, PhD, University of Washington  |  James Kuchenbecker, University of Washington


March 14, 2024
2:00 pm - 3:00 pm EST

Credits 1 LU | Elective


Research carried out at the University of Washington has demonstrated that the intrinsically photosensitive retinal ganglion cells get significant input from the red, green and blue cones involved in color vision. Research shows that under the right circumstances, signals from the cones can be much stronger than those generated by Melanopsin. The body clocks of our Paleolithic human ancestors were synchronized by light from colorful sunsets and research shows that patterns of color and intensity similar to dawn and dusk have more powerful effects on ipRGCs than simple blue lights. Understanding the role of patterns of light on cones in driving ipRGCs will lead to much better ways of controlling circadian rhythms than is possible with current technologies.


  • Understand how light therapy can boost attention, reaction times, and mood to be used as an efficient way to help people “reset” circadian rhythms and ameliorate jet lag, shift work disorder, and SAD.
  • The reason blue lights are more effective than other colors is partly due to photopigment, Melanopsin, in retinal ganglion cells that project to the SCN is most sensitive to blue light.
  • In addition to Melanopsin, intrinsically photosensitive retinal ganglion cells are highly sensitive to the patterns of input from the red, green and blue cone photoreceptors involved in color vision.
  • Colored patterns of light on the cones can be used more efficiently than blue light to synchronize our body clock and can be used to avoid and counteract light stimulation that disrupts our rhythms.


Jay Neitz
Jay Neitz
Professor of Ophthalmology and Color Vision Researcher
University of Washington

Jay Neitz PhD holds the Bishop endowed Professorship in Ophthalmology at the University of Washington in Seattle, USA. He seeks to understand how the human visual system operates by studying the entire process of seeing, from genes to behavior. He has discovered how genetic mutations influence the most common vision problems that affect modern humans, including myopia, colorblindness and disrupted circadian rhythm. He is the leading expert on the of study the role of color information in driving behavior including the influence of color on circadian rhythms. His research has also triggered a reconsideration of how neural circuits for seeing color and drive rhythms become established, and he has been working out the neurobiological mechanisms driving the circadian rhythm using a combination of reconstructions of retinal circuitry from serial electron microcopy, electrophysiology and psychophysics. Jay Neitz received his PhD from the University of California in Santa Barbara.

James Kuchenbecker
James Kuchenbecker
Assistant Professor
University of Washington

James Kuchenbecker received his B.S. in Electrical Engineering in 2004 and a Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering in 2008 from Marquette University where he was the recipient of the GAANN fellowship. His graduate research was conducted in the laboratories of Jay and Maureen Neitz. After receiving his Ph.D. Jim continued to work with the Neitz’s as a postdoctoral scholar, and it is during this time that he first got interested in intrinsically photosensitive retinal ganglion cells and their role in setting the circadian time in humans. Presently, Jim is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Ophthalmology at the University of Washington. Jim has been an author on over 70 peer reviewed publications in scientific journals, including Nature, and he is listed as an inventor on 2 patents.

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