Impact of Light on Humans

Circadian aspects of daylight on human physiology, behaviour and visual comfort

Research Team:
Dr. Mirjam Münch (Neuroscience, now Professor Massey University, Wellington, NZ, Prof. Jean-Louis Scartezzini (Physics), Apiparn Borisuit (Postdoc, Architect & Lighting Designer), Chantal Basurto (Doctoral student EDCE, Architect), Lenka Maierova, (External Ph.D. student, Czeck Technical University in Prague, Czech Republic),  Laurent Deschamps (Engineer ETS/HES, Head of the IT group), Pierre Loesch (Mechanic)

Beyond vision, our eyes mediate non-visual effects of light including synchronization of physiological rhythms and behavior with the external light dark cycle. These non-visual processes are conveyed via retinal photoreceptors (e.g. rods and cones) as well as melanopsin containing retinal ganglion cells. Since we spend most of our time inside buildings the quality and quantity of daily light we get through our eyes matters – not only for visual comfort but also for our health and wellbeing. Our interdisciplinary research team is further elaborating these non-visual effects of light on human physiology and behavior with special emphasis on the effects of daylight. We also elaborate knowledge for optimized lighting conditions in different healthy populations as well as in patients suffering from visual impairments and circadian rhythm disorders.

Research objectives:

  • To test the acute and circadian impact of different light conditions on human physiology, behavior and visual comfort.
  • To further elaborate an interdisciplinary approach to incorporate photobiological aspects of light in sustainable architecture and building science.
  • To contribute to the development of new technologies related to circadian aspects of light conditions for different populations and patients.

Selected Publications:

Maierova L., Borisuit A., Scartezzini J.-L., Jaeggi S.M., Schmidt C., Münch M., Diurnal variations of hormonal secretion, alertness and cognition in extreme chronotypes under different lighting conditions. Nature Scientific Reports 6, 33591,

A. Borisuit, J. Kämpf, M. Münch, A. Thanachareonkit and J.-L. Scartezzini. Monitoring and rendering of visual and photo-biological properties of daylight-redirecting systems. in Solar Energy Journal, vol. 129, p. 297-309, 2016.

A. Borisuit, F. Linhart, J.-L. Scartezzini and M. Muench. Effects of realistic office daylighting and electric lighting conditions on visual comfort, alertness and mood. in Lighting Research & Technology, vol. 47, num. 2, p. 192-209, 2015.

M. Münch, G. Plomp, E. Thunell, A. Kawasaki, J. L. Scartezzini and M. H. Herzog. Different colors of light lead to different adaptation and activation as determined by high-density EEG. in NeuroImage, 2014.

Borisuit A, Scartezzini JL, Münch M. (Dirs), The impact of light including non-image forming effects on visual comfort, EPFL PhD thesis no 6007, 2013

Maierova L, Borisuit A, Scartezzini JL, Münch M. Indoor lighting conditions and inter individual light preferences: effects on subjective alertness, physical wellbeing and electrical energy consumption, CLIMA 2013: 11th REHVA World Congress & 8th International Conference on IAQVEC, Prague, Czech Rep. 16-19 June 2013

Münch M, Bromundt V, Light and chronobiology: Implications for health and disease, Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience, vol. 14, p.448-453, 2012

Münch M, Linhart F, Borisuit A, Jaeggi SM, Scartezzini JL. Effects of prior light exposure on cognitive performance, subjective sleepiness, and hormonal secretion in the evening. Behavioral Neuroscience. Vol. 126 no 1, p.196-203, 2012. doi: 10.1037/a0026702

Borisuit A, Linhart F, Kämpf J, Scartezzini J-L, Münch M. Comparison of objective and subjective visual comfort and associations with non-visual functions in young subjects. Conference Proceedings, International Scientific Conference on Renewables in a Changing Climate (CISBAT): 361-366, Lausanne, September 14-16, 2011.

Basurto C., Borisuit A., Kämpf J., Münch M., Scartezzini J-L. , Daylight Optimization of buildings and application of advanced daylighting systems in central Mexico. Conference Proceedings, International Scientific Conference on Renewables in a Changing Climate (CISBAT): 397-402, Lausanne, September 14-16, 2011.

Münch M., Chronobiologie – Rhythmen des Lebens, Zeitschrift für Neurologie und Psychiatrie, 2: 2011, 16-18

A. Borisuit and J.-L. Scartezzini. Visual discomfort and glare rating assessment of integrated daylighting and electric lighting systems using HDR imaging techniques. Architectural Science Review, vol. 53.4, 2010

Münch M. Überblick dynamische Beleuchtung – Chronobiologische Beurteilung der Beleuchtungssituation (german). SEV Bulletin – Fachzeitschrift und Verbandsinformationen von Electrosuisse 2010, 6: 32-36 (Summary in French).

Linhart F, Energetic, visual and non-visual aspects of office lighting, EPFL Thesis 4634 (2010).

Linhart F, Scartezzini J-L, Münch M. Daylight exposure and circadian efficiency in office rooms equipped with anidolic daylighting systems. CISBAT 2009 Proceedings, International Scientific Conference Renewables in a Changing Climate, pages 255-260, Lausanne, September 2-3, 2009.

Linhart F, Wittkopf S, Münch M, Scartezzini J-L. Recent research on anidolic daylighting systems: highly reflective coating materials and chronobiological properties. Proceedings of SPIE, volume 7421-7434, San Diego, California, USA, August, 2-6, 2009.

In the Media:
Swiss National Television in Italian: RSI la 1 – Il giardino di Alberto: Cronobiologia – Luce dei miei occhi
Le Matin (February 13, 2013): La luminothérapie chasse la dépression hivernale
Tages Anzeiger (October 13/14, 2011): Licht sorgt für Gesundheit (German)
Hebdo (Guide de l’étudiant, 3.9.2011, pp 16-17): Une Thaïlandaise très éclairée
Focus (4.1.2011): Fit durch Licht (German)
Hebdo (21.4.2011): Bureaux bien éclairés, neurones mieux activés
Tec21 (47/2010): Zeitgeber Licht
Elektrotechnik Licht (ET-Licht) 2010/1, p.6-9: Licht wirkt: Biologische Lichtwirkungen
NZZ am Sonntag (21.11.2010): Erleuchtung im Klassenzimmer (German)
NZZ (9.12.2009): Den Tag ins Zimmer holen (German)
Sonntags Zeitung (27.12.2009): Strahlen für’s Gemüt (German)

Financial Support:

Velux Foundation, Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF), Age-Stiftung Schweiz

Completed Funding: Grieshaber Ophthalmic Research Foundation