You might want to reconsider that midnight snack… As it is already known that the late night munchies is harmful to your body weight, a new study conducted at the University of California , Los Angeles. shows that it could also be impairing the way we learn and collect memories. As much as I love a late night bowl of ice cream every now and then, I would much rather maintain my edge on learning and stellar memory 😉
“We believe that late-night snacking may affect our learning capabilities by affecting the parts of the brain responsible for learning and memory, specifically, the hippocampus,” Dr. Dawn Loh, a project scientist at the university and lead author of the study, told The Huffington Post. “The timing of food consumption is what we believe to be the primary cause of the impaired memory that we describe.”
For the study, which was published last month in the online journal eLife, the researchers analyzed the behavior and cognitive abilities of mice who were put on strict feeding schedules. Over a two-week period, the mice were either allowed to eat during the time of day when they tend to be the most active, or only during the time of day when they tend to sleep, New Scientist reported.
Then, the researchers tested the cognitive abilities of the mice by measuring their performance on behavioral tests. In one test, the researchers determined how well the mice could remember that a specific room chamber was associated with an unpleasant-yet-mild electric shock after 24 hours had gone by.
The researchers noticed that, when the mice were placed in the room again, those who ate when they should have been sleeping were less likely to “freeze” in fear than the mice who ate during normal hours — suggesting that they didn’t remember the association.
The researchers also tested how well the mice could recognize a novel object, and noticed that the mice who ate when they should have been sleeping were significantly less able to recall the object than the mice who were fed at their normal hours.
By consuming food at the ‘wrong’ time of day, we induce misalignment between the various clocks in the brain and body.”
The researchers went on to show that molecules involved in memory formation were altered in the mice who were fed when they should have been sleeping. Since the formation of long-term memories is governed by the hippocampus, the researchers concluded that the timing of meals can disrupt hippocampal physiology, and therefore our ability to learn.
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