Challenging a Myth and Misconception: Red-Light Vision in Rats
Pharma Research and Early Development (pRED), Pharmaceutical Sciences (PS), Roche Innovation Center Basel, 4070 Basel, Switzerland
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Received: 10 February 2020 / Revised: 26 February 2020 / Accepted: 29 February 2020 / Published: 3 March 2020
Light substantially influences animal physiology and behavior. Thus, it is a prerequisite to house laboratory animals under optimal light conditions. Different species possess different sets of photoreceptors, resulting in differential perception of the visible-light spectrum. While humans are trichromats with red-, green- and blue-sensitive cones, rats and mice are dichromats possessing ultraviolet- and green-sensitive cones. This led to the common assumption that red light is invisible to rodents and therefore red lights are commonly used in husbandry and experiments to observe animals during their dark phase. The retinal sensitivity of rats to red light though has never been assessed under scotopic conditions (dark-adapted) even though this mimics the setting red observation lights are being used. We examined the sensitivity to far-red light of the dark- and light-adapted rat retina. Our study demonstrates that the rat retina responds to far-red light under both conditions with great sensitivity, indicating that rats are not red-light blind. This should be taken into consideration when using red light to keep the effects of light on the retina and physiology to a minimum and will improve animal well-being and lead to better quality data by decreasing the variable light.