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Pupillary constriction or constriction of the pupil is a physiological response that decreases the size of the pupil of the eye.

Another term for the constriction of the pupil is miosis. Substances that cause miosis are described as miotic.

It can have a variety of causes. It may be a reaction to exposure to reduced light. Or it may indicate reduced interest in the subject of attention or indicate sexual stimulation.[1]


When bright light is shone on the eye, it will automatically constrict. The pupil opens wide when dark and small when light. This is the pupillary reflex, which is an important test of brainstem function.

The oculomotor nerve, specifically the parasympathetic part coming from the Edinger-Westphal nucleus, terminates on the circular iris sphincter muscle. When this muscle contracts, it reduces the size of the pupil.

The iris is a contractile structure, consisting mainly of smooth muscle, surrounding the pupil. Light enters the eye through the pupil, and the iris regulates the amount of light by controlling the size of the pupil. The iris contains two groups of smooth muscles; a circular group called the sphincter pupillae, and a radial group called the dilator pupillae. When they contract, the iris decreases or constricts the size of the pupil. These muscles are sometimes referred to as intrinsic eye muscles.

Psychological factors associated with pupil conctriction

Certain drugs cause constriction of the pupils, such as alcohol and opiates. Other drugs, such as atropine and amphetamines cause pupil dilation.


  1. Hess, Eckhard H.; Polt, James M. (5 August 1960), "Pupil Size as Related to Interest Value of Visual Stimuli", Science 132 (3423): 349, doi:10.1126/science.132.3423.349