Midnight Snacks Can Mess with Your Memory
Late-night snacks can do more than add to your waistline. They may, according to a study published in the journal eLife, also cause memory problems.
For the study, researchers at the UCLA Laboratory of Circadian and Sleep Medicine fed a group of mice in a six-hour window during the day and studied their ability to remember an object. Next, they restricted food during the day and fed them only in a six-hour window during their normal sleeping hours.
When researchers retested the animals' memories after they were permitted to eat late into the night, they found not only did mice struggle more to recall the object, but over a long period of time, their long-term memory had dramatically reduced.
The study team believes that erratic food schedules can impair the hippocampus -- the brain region that manages emotions, the ability to organize, and memory storage. When humans and animals form memories, nerve impulses activate along a specific pathway. After a certain behavior is repeated, that same pathway is reactivated and ultimately reinforced and strengthened. But the researchers found activity in the hippocampus to be significantly reduced during midnight eating.
"Modern schedules can lead us to eat around the clock so it is important to understand how the timing of food can impact cogitation," said the study's co-author Christopher Colwell, a psychiatry professor at UCLA.
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