Sleep and meal-time misalignment alters functional connectivity: a pilot resting-state study

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Delayed sleep and meal times promote metabolic dysregulation and obesity. Altered coordination of sleeping and eating times may impact food-reward valuation and interoception in the brain, yet the independent and collective contributions of sleep and meal times are unknown. This randomized, in-patient crossover study experimentally manipulates sleep and meal times while preserving sleep duration (7.05 ± 0.44 h for 5 nights). Resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging scans (2 × 5-minute runs) were obtained for four participants (three males; 25.3 ± 4.6 years), each completing all study phases (normal sleep/normal meal; late sleep/normal meal; normal sleep/late meal; and late sleep/late meal). Normal mealtimes were 1, 5, 11 and 12.5 h after awakening; late mealtimes were 4.5, 8.5, 14.5 and 16 h after awakening. Seed-based resting-state functional connectivity (RSFC) was computed for a priori regions-of-interest (seeds) and contrasted across conditions. Statistically significant (P<0.05, whole-brain corrected) regionally specific effects were found for multiple seeds. The strongest effects were linked to the amygdala: increased RSFC for late versus normal mealtimes (equivalent to skipping breakfast). A main effect of sleep and interaction with meal time were also observed. Preliminary findings support the feasibility of examining the effects of sleep and meal-time misalignment, independent of sleep duration, on RSFC in regions relevant to food reward and interoception.

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