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Apr 19, 2015 01:50 PM EDT

Color and Brightness Have Profound Affect on Circadian Rhythm, the Body's Internal Clock

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In trying to learn more about man's internal clock, a group of researchers learned the light and color we experience every day plays a significant role.

Publishing their work in the journal PLOS One, the scientists used mice to test out the theory that color helps people set their circadian rhythm. A person's internal clock is central to the most basic human functions, like eating and sleeping.

"As a sort of common sense notion people have assumed that the clock somehow measures the amount of light in the outside world," study lead researcher Tim Brown, a neuroscientist at the University of Manchester in the United Kingdom, told Science Magazine. "Our idea was that it might be doing something more sophisticated than that."

Many members of the scientific community suspected light had something to do with the circadian rhythm, but the authors of this study wanted to get more specific. They wanted to learn how properties of light such as color and brightness affect a person's internal clock, Science Magazine reported.

The researchers were able to disrupt the mice's internal clock by crafting an "artificial sky" above them. Controlling what time of day the mice perceived it to be, the scientists found the mice's internal body temperature - which normally peaks at night - was off.

"This is the first time that we've been able to test the theory that color affects our body clock in any mammal. It has always been very hard to separate the change in color to the change in brightness but using new experimental tools and a psychophysics approach we were successful," Brown said in a press release. "What's exciting about our research is that the same findings can be applied to humans. So, in theory, color could be used to manipulate our clock, which could be useful for shift workers or travellers wanting to minimize jet lag."

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