Disruptions in circadian timing impair spatial memory in humans and rodents. Circadian-arrhythmic Siberian hamsters (Phodopus sungorus) exhibit substantial deficits in spatial working memory as assessed by a spontaneous alternation (SA) task. The present study found that daily scheduled feeding rescued spatial memory deficits in these arrhythmic animals. Improvements in memory persisted for at least 3 weeks after the arrhythmic hamsters were switched back to ad libitum feeding. During ad libitum feeding, locomotor activity resumed its arrhythmic state, but performance on the SA task varied across the day with a peak in daily performance that corresponded to the previous daily window of food anticipation. At the end of scheduled feeding, c-Fos brain mapping revealed differential gene expression in entrained versus arrhythmic hamsters in the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) that paralleled changes in the medial septum and hippocampus, but not in other neural structures. These data show that scheduled feeding can improve cognitive performance when SCN timing has been compromised, possibly by coordinating activity in the SCN and septohippocampal pathway.
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