A study has shown that mice that eat while they ought to be sleeping have a poorer memory.
"For the first time it has been proven that eating at irregular intervals affects the brain", scientists from the University of Edinburgh claim. They came to this conclusion after testing with mice. The animals were fed at a moment on which they would usually be sleeping. Afterwards, their long-term memory was tested by showing them objects they had been shown before.
Mice that ate at night (a time at which they would normally be sleeping) had more difficulty recognising the object. The explanation comes from the genes of the memory and the circadian rhythm (our biological clock). Some of those genes contain CREB, a protein which influences the memory. In mice which ate at the wrong moments, the CREB became less active.
However, Scientas emphasises that the hippocampus (the part of the brain which stores memories), is not the most important force behind our circadian rhythm, since that is the nucleus suprachiasmaticus (the part of the brain which is responsible for biorhythm). This last part showed no changes, whether the mice ate or not.
"The various clocks of the brain (hippocampus and suprachiasmaticus) were not synchronised, which caused the mice to develop a poorer memory."
Since the results only apply to mice, the scientists now want to check whether midnight snacks have the same effect on people as well.