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article imageWhy eating at odd times affects memory recall

By Tim Sandle     Jan 2, 2016 in Health
Shift work and other aspects of a busy lifestyle lead to people eating at times when the body is not geared to be expecting food. New research shows "midnight eating" can dull the memory.
The finding relates to studies conducted using mice. By varying the eating times for mice, scientists have shown that internal clocks wired in different regions of the brain begin working out of step if feeding times step outside from the norm. This leads to an alteration to the,physiology of the brain, and learning and memory are particularly affected. The function of memory is controlled by the hippocampal area of the brain. The science group say there is a reasonable chance the same effects will occur with people.
Eating at strange hours, later into the night, has previously been linked with physiological ill-health (such as pre-diabetes). Scientists from the David Geffen School of Medicine at University of California, Los Angeles were interested to explore the psychological impact.
By varying the times that mice eat at, the researchers assessed the ability of mice to recall a common object. Mice fed when they would normally be asleep saw a significant reduction in their long-term memory. Physiological examinations showed the process of memory formation, where nerve impulses are fired in the brain, were less effective with mice fed at night compared with a control group fed during the day. It is thought a protein, associated with both learning and the circadian clock, called CREB (cAMP response element-binding protein), is less active when an animal eats at night and this results in weakened memory formation.
Although the research has only been conducted on mice, the next phase is to conduct some test using humans. If confirmed the results add to the body of evidence against shift work.
The research is published in the journal eLife. The paper is succinctly titled "Misaligned feeding impairs memories."
In related news: considering shift work, the latest in the growing body of medical science about the dangers of prolonged night work concerns driving safety.
More about shift work, Meal times, Eating, circadian rhythms
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