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Eating Food After Midnight May Mangle Your Memory the Next Day

First Posted: Jan 02, 2016 08:41 AM EST

Do you eat at or after midnight? Scientists have found that the midnight munchies may actually mangle your memory the next day.

In this latest study, the researchers became interested in the cognitive effects of eating at inappropriate hours because it's already known to have an impact on metabolic health. For example, it can lead to a pre-diabetic state.

"We have provided the first evidence that taking regular meals at the wrong time of day has far-reaching effects for learning and memory," said Dawn Loh, first author of the new study, in a news release. "Since many people find themselves working or playing during times when they'd normally be asleep, it is important to know that this could dull some of the functions of the brain.

In the study, the researchers showed that some learned behaviors are more affected than others. For example, the scientists tested the ability of mice to recognize a novel object; mice that were regularly fed during their sleep-time were significantly less able to recall the object. Long-term memory was also dramatically reduced, which was demonstrated during a fear conditioning experiment.

"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 Christopher Colwell, one of the researchers. "For the first time, we have shown that simply adjusting the time when food is made available alters the molecular clock in the hippocampus and can alter the cognitive performance of mice."

The findings are published in the journal eLife.

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