Acute exposure to light exerts widespread effects on physiology, in addition to its key role in photoentrainment. Although the modulatory effect of light on physiological arousal is well demonstrated in mice, its effect on memory performance is inconclusive, as the direction of the effect depends on the nature of the behavioural task employed and/or the type of stimulus utilised. Moreover, in all rodent studies that reported significant effects of light on performance, brain activity was not assessed during the task and thus it is unclear how brain activity was modulated by light or the exact relationship between light-modulated brain activity and performance. Here we examine the modulatory effects of light of varying intensities on recognition memory performance and frontoparietal waking electroencephalography (EEG) in mice using the spontaneous recognition memory task. We report a light-intensity-dependent disruptive effect on recognition memory performance at the group level, but inspection of individual-level data indicates that light-intensity-dependent facilitation is observed in some cases. Using linear mixed-effects models, we then demonstrate that EEG fast theta (θ) activity at the time of encoding negatively predicts recognition memory performance, whereas slow gamma (γ) activity at the time of retrieval positively predicts performance. These relationships between θ/γ activity and performance are strengthened by increasing light intensity. Thus, light modulates θ and γ band activities involved in attentional and mnemonic processes, thereby affecting recognition memory performance. However, extraneous factors including the phase of the internal clock at which light is presented and homeostatic sleep pressure may determine how photic input is translated into behavioural performance.
EEG gamma, EEG theta, Light intensity, Recognition memory performance, mice