, Volume 341, Issue 1, pp 1-11
Date: 20 Jun 2010

Metabolic and reward feeding synchronises the rhythmic brain

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Daily brain rhythmicity, which controls the sleep-wake cycle and neuroendocrine functions, is generated by an endogenous circadian timing system. Within the multi-oscillatory circadian network, a master clock is located in the suprachiasmatic nuclei of the hypothalamus, whose main synchroniser (Zeitgeber) is light. In contrast, imposed meal times and temporally restricted feeding are potent synchronisers for secondary clocks in peripheral organs such as the liver and in brain regions, although not for the suprachiasmatic nuclei. Even when animals are exposed to a light-dark cycle, timed calorie restriction (i.e. when only a hypocaloric diet is given every day) is a synchroniser powerful enough to modify the suprachiasmatic clockwork and increase the synchronising effects of light. A daily chocolate snack in animals fed ad libitum with chow diet entrains the suprachiasmatic clockwork only under the conditions of constant darkness and decreases the synchronising effects of light. Secondary clocks in the brain outside the suprachiasmatic nuclei are differentially influenced by meal timing. Circadian oscillations can either be highly sensitive to food-related metabolic or reward cues (i.e. their phase is shifted according to the timed meal schedule) in some structures or hardly affected by meal timing (palatable or not) in others. Furthermore, animals will manifest food-anticipatory activity prior to their expected meal time. Anticipation of a palatable or regular meal may rely on a network of brain clocks, involving metabolic and reward systems and the cerebellum.