Indexed on: 29 Jul '15Published on: 29 Jul '15Published in: Neuroscience
Circadian clocks drive daily rhythms in physiology and behavior which allow organisms to anticipate predictable daily changes in the environment. In most mammals, circadian rhythms result in nocturnal activity patterns although plasticity of the circadian system allows activity patterns to shift to different times of day. Such plasticity is seen when food access is restricted to a few hours during the resting (light) phase resulting in food anticipatory activity (FAA) in the hours preceding food availability. The mechanisms underlying FAA are unknown but data suggest the involvement of the reward system and homeostatic regulation of metabolism. We previously demonstrated the isolated effect of metabolism by inducing diurnality in response to energetic challenges. Here the importance of reward timing in inducing daytime activity is assessed. The daily activity distribution of mice earning palatable chocolate at their preferred time by working in a running wheel was compared with that of mice receiving a timed palatable meal at noon. Mice working for chocolate (WFC) without being energetically challenged increased their total daily activity but this did not result in a shift to diurnality. Providing a chocolate meal at noon each day increased daytime activity, identifying food timing as a factor capable of altering the daily distribution of activity and rest. These results show that timing of food reward and energetic challenges are both independently sufficient to induce diurnality in nocturnal mammals. FAA observed following timed food restriction is likely the result of an additive effect of distinct regulatory pathways activated by energetic challenges and food reward.