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The use of high- and low-melanopic lighting to improve cognitive work in healthcare

Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health

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Dr D Phipps , Prof C Dickinson Applications accepted all year round Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

Previous research has supported the notion that lighting conditions play a role in determining how well humans work on healthcare tasks. For example, one previous study [1] found a relationship between lighting intensity and the accuracy of medicines dispensing. More recent work has expanded to consider the role of other characteristics such as colour temperature, spectrum and timing. This work has inspired the proposal of so-called “human-centric" lighting, which is intended to bring about particular effects on human performance or wellbeing.

One recent development is the potential use of melanopic lighting. The sleep-wake cycle is controlled by “blue” light that is absorbed by melanopsin photopigment in the retina and signalled to the suprachiasmatic nucleus in the brain via the intrinsically photosensitive retinal ganglion cells (ipRGC). Experimental studies suggest a link between melatonin, sleepiness and performance on cognitive tasks . Allen et al. [5] developed a special VDU that has 5 spectral channels (rather than the usual 3 of red green and blue), which can present images containing a lot of blue light (high-melanopic) or very little blue light (low-melanopic). They showed that when observers were viewing the high-melanopic display they did not report as much sleepiness as with the low-melanopic display. However there has not yet been an assessment of the effect that this display would have on task performance.

The aim of our proposed project is to identify a set of exemplar cognitive tasks in healthcare work and investigate how performance on these tasks, and associated indicators of wellbeing, are affected by exposure to different types of high- and low-melanopic light. While our primary interest for this project is healthcare applications (and in particular, medicines prescribing, dispensing or administration), we will consider proposals for a project examining work in a different setting.

Candidates are expected to hold (or be about to obtain) a minimum upper second class honours degree or equivalent in a relevant subject area (e.g. optometry; psychology; ergonomics/human factors).

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 PhD Pharmacy Practice.

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 1 fee. Details of our different fee bands can be found on our website ( For information on how to apply for this project, please visit the Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health Doctoral Academy website (

As an equal opportunities institution we welcome applicants from all sections of the community regardless of gender, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation and transgender status. All appointments are made on merit.

Fees can be found here K:\FBMH Doctoral Academy\DA Reference Library - Policy and Procedures\Fees


Buchanan TL, et al. Illumination and errors in dispensing. Am J Hosp Pharm 1991; 48: 2137-2145.

Chellappa SL, et al. Non-visual effects of light on melatonin, alertness and cognitive performance: can blue-enriched light keep us alert? PLOS One 2011; 6: e16429.

Frewer LJ, Lader M. The effects of caffeine on two computerized tests of attention and vigilance. Human Psychopharm 1991; 6: 119-128.

Patrick Y, et al. Effects of sleep deprivation on cognitive and physical performance in university students. Sleep Biol Rhythms 2017; 15: 217-225.

Allen AE, et al. Exploiting metamerism to regulate the impact of a visual display on alertness and melatonin suppression independent of visual appearance Sleep 2018; 41. doi: 10.1093/sleep/zsy100

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