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Light is known to exert powerful effects on behavior and physiology, including upon the amount and distribution of activity across the day/night cycle. Here we use home cage activity monitoring to measure the effect of differences in home cage light spectrum and intensity on key circadian activity parameters in mice. Due to the relative positioning of any individually ventilated cage (IVC) with regard to the animal facility lighting, notable differences in light intensity occur across the IVC rack. Although all mice were found to be entrained, significant differences in the timing of activity onset and differences in activity levels were found between mice housed in standard versus red filtering cages. Furthermore, by calculating the effective irradiance based upon the known mouse photopigments, a significant relationship between light intensity and key circadian parameters are shown. Perhaps unsurprisingly given the important role of the circadian photopigment melanopsin in circadian entrainment, melanopic illuminance is shown to correlate more strongly with key circadian activity parameters than photopic lux. Collectively, our results suggest that differences in light intensity may reflect an uncharacterized source of variation in laboratory rodent research, with potential consequences for reproducibility. Room design and layout vary within and between facilities, and caging design and lighting location relative to cage position can be highly variable. We suggest that cage position should be factored into experimental design, and wherever possible, experimental lighting conditions should be characterized as a way of accounting for this source of variation.

Original publication




Journal article


Front Neurosci

Publication Date





cage rack, circadian, individually ventilated cage (IVC), light, melanopsin, reproducibility, retina