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Mechanisms underlying the effects of light and visual stimuli on mood

   Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health

About the Project

 Light is not only important for vision, light responsiveness extends to fundamental aspects of mood, cognition, and performance. This has direct implications for human health and well-being, especially since one of the most striking changes we are experiencing in modern life is how much we are exposed to artificial light. People in developed countries now spend >90% of their time indoors exposed to artificial lighting of various qualities. Furthermore, with new technologies booming, adults spend >10h and children >4h a day in front of screens of numerous devices (TVs, phones, computers, etc.). Even more so, during the COVID-19 pandemic, we have witnessed how screen-time has increased in both adults and children. Conversely, light can be used as an effective and non-invasive therapeutic option with little to no side effects, to improve sleep, mood, and general well-being. Light therapy is the treatment of choice for seasonal affective disorder and is emerging as a treatment for many other psychiatric disorders. Despite this, the biological mechanisms involved in these light-induced effects on mood are still poorly understood.

We do not know:

 i) which visual features affect our mood and how,

ii) what brain centres and neuronal networks are involved in these phenomena.

Without knowing this, we cannot successfully control these systems and their positive and negative effects. Therefore, it remains unclear how best to adjust artificial lighting, visual displays, and therapeutic approaches to maximise health and wellbeing.

This PhD programme will allow a successful applicant to investigate the biological mechanisms underlying the effects of light and visual stimuli on mood and start answering these crucial questions and make a step change in the field of light and mood.

1.     Candidates are expected to hold (or be about to obtain) a minimum upper second class honours degree (or equivalent) in a related area / subject. Candidates with experience in working in a wet laboratory or with an interest in neuroscience of non-visual responses are encouraged to apply. 

2.     For information on how to apply for this project, please visit the Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health Doctoral Academy website ( Informal enquiries may be made directly to the primary supervisor. On the online application form select the PhD title.

3.     For international students, we also offer a unique 4 year PhD programme that gives you the opportunity to undertake an accredited Teaching Certificate whilst carrying out an independent research project across a range of biological, medical and health sciences. For more information please visit

Funding Notes

Applications are invited from self-funded students. This project has a Band 3 fee. Details of our different fee bands can be found on our website View Website
Equality, diversity and inclusion is fundamental to the success of The University of Manchester, and is at the heart of all of our activities. The full Equality, diversity and inclusion statement can be found on the website View Website


Milosavljevic, N. How Does Light Regulate Mood and Behavioral State? Clocks & Sleep 2019, 1, 319-331
- Milosavljevic N, Cehajic-Kapetanovic J, Procyk CA, Lucas RJ. Chemogenetic Activation of Melanopsin Retinal Ganglion Cells Induces Signatures of Arousal and/or Anxiety in Mice. Curr Biol. 2016; 26:2358-63
- Mouland J, Martial F, Lucas RJ, Brown TM. (2021). Modulations in irradiance directed at melanopsin, but not cone photoreceptors, reliably alter electrophysiological activity in the suprachiasmatic nucleus and circadian behaviour in mice. J Pineal Res. 70:e12735
- Paul S, Hanna L, Harding C, Hayter EA, Walmsley L, Bechtold DA, Brown TM. (2020). Output from VIP cells of the mammalian central clock regulates daily physiological rhythms. Nat Commun. 11:1453.
- Mouland, JM, Martial, F, Watson, A, Lucas RJ, Brown TM. (2019). Cones support alignment to an inconsistent world by supressing mouse circadian responses to the blue colours associated with twilight. Curr Biol. 29: 4260-4267

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