Research news: Retinal cell discovered that is overstimulated in indoor light, may lead to myopia

Too much time spent indoors may cause “aberrant over-growth of the eye, leading to myopia” according to Associate Prof. Greg Schwartz, Northwestern University.  New research has uncovered a specific retinal cell that is highly sensitive to daylight and controls “how the eye grows and develops”. Indoor light has a different spectrum and strength to outdoor light.

Image of the newly discovered call called “ON Delayed” retinal ganglion cell.

““More than a billion people in the world have myopia, whose incidence is rising and is linked to how much time people spend indoors as children,” Dr. Schwartz said.”

If the ON Delayed cell instructs the eye to grow too long, images fail to be focused on the retina, causing nearsighted vision and a lifetime of corrective glasses or contact lenses.

“The eye needs to stop growing at precisely the right time during childhood,” Dr. Schwartz said.

“The indoor light spectrum has high red/green contrast, which activates these clusters of photoreceptors in the human eye, creating the equivalent of an artificial contrast image on the retina,” he said.

“It’s likely the human version of the ON Delayed retinal ganglion cell would be overstimulated by such patterns, causing aberrant over-growth of the eye, leading to myopia.”

— Northwestern University

This new research underscores parents concerns that a high-rise indoor environment will prevent normal eye development in students, potentially leading to long term eye damage.

H/t JR

1. Mani A, Schwartz GW: Circuit Mechanisms of a Retinal Ganglion Cell with Stimulus-Dependent Response Latency and Activation Beyond Its Dendrites: J Current Biology; Feb 2017.

2 thoughts on “Research news: Retinal cell discovered that is overstimulated in indoor light, may lead to myopia

  1. I read the article. A new retinal ganglion cell called “ON delayed” is being identified. However, I could not see compatibility between the statements given in the interview and the article content. I could not find the data related to the “ON delayed” cell stimulation leading to ocular growth or stimulation of the cell by well defined indoor daylight. I do not find it ethical for authors to announce the ideas which are not their own, as an interpretation of the study findings. Because the article describing indoors myopia through the spectral structure of indoor daylight has already been announced and explained previously by some others.


    1. Thanks for that extra reference Dr Yilmaz, showing that different spectra affect the length of the eyeball in fish. I would be interested to know what happened if they had used outdoor daylight in their experiment as well as indoor daylight. But it is more evidence that artificial lighting has an effect on eye growth.

      I think we are seeing the normal, awkward leap from the detail of any scientific research to the media-translated-output where the finer points are lost.

      From the press release, Schwartz et al let people know that their work is part of a large body of research:

      It has long been long known the retina contains a signal to focus the image in the eye, and this signal is important for properly regulating eye growth during childhood. “But for years no one knew what cell carried the signal,” Schwartz said. “We potentially found the key missing link, which is the cell that actually does that task and the neural circuit that enables this important visual function.”

      I gather from the use of “potentially” that there are still elements that are not clearly defined yet.

      I would expect any expert in research on eye biology to try to translate what they know (if only from reading reviews and other papers) to journalists who ask “what does this mean”. I take your point that his work on its own does not cover all the aspects he spoke of. There are probably scores of researchers involved (I would hope they get recognition in the citations).

      In this situation most people don’t realize how strong the evidence is that children who spend too long indoors are more likely to get myopia. The media coverage is years behind the research.


Comments are closed.

Create a website or blog at

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: