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Weak evidence of bright light effects on human LH and FSH


Abstract Background Most mammals are seasonal breeders whose gonads grow to anticipate reproduction in the spring and summer. As day length increases, secretion increases for two gonadotropins, luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle stimulating hormone (FSH). This response is largely controlled by light. Light effects on gonadotropins are mediated through effects on the suprachiasmatic nucleus and responses of the circadian system. There is some evidence that seasonal breeding in humans is regulated by similar mechanisms, and that light stimulates LH secretion, but primate responses seem complex. Methods To gain further information on effects of bright light on LH and FSH secretion in humans, we analyzed urine samples collected in three experiments conducted for other goals. First, volunteers ages 18-30 years and 60-75 commenced an ultra-short 90-min sleep-wake cycle, during which they were exposed to 3000 lux light for 3 hours at balanced times of day, repeated for 3 days. Urine samples were assayed to explore any LH phase response curve. Second, depressed participants 60-79 years of age were treated with bright light or dim placebo light for 28 days, with measurements of urinary LH and FSH before and after treatment. Third, women of ages 20-45 years with premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) were treated to one 3-hour exposure of morning light, measuring LH and FSH in urine before and after the treatments. Results Two of the three studies showed significant increases in LH after light treatment, and FSH also tended to increase, but there were no significant contrasts with parallel placebo treatments and no significant time-of-day treatment effects. Conclusions These results gave some support for the hypothesis that bright light may augment LH secretion. Longer-duration studies may be needed to clarify the effects of light on human LH and FSH.

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