Circadian clocks evolved under conditions of environmental variation, primarily alternating light dark cycles, to enable organisms to anticipate daily environmental events and coordinate metabolic, physiological, and behavioral activities. However, modern lifestyle and advances in technology have increased the percentage of individuals working in phases misaligned with natural circadian activity rhythms. Endogenous circadian oscillators modulate alertness, the acquisition of learning, memory formation, and the recall of memory with examples of circadian modulation of memory observed across phyla from invertebrates to humans. Cognitive performance and memory are significantly diminished when occurring out of phase with natural circadian rhythms. Disruptions in circadian regulation can lead to impairment in the formation of memories and manifestation of other cognitive deficits. This review explores the types of interactions through which the circadian clock modulates cognition, highlights recent progress in identifying mechanistic interactions between the circadian system and the processes involved in memory formation, and outlines methods used to remediate circadian perturbations and reinforce circadian adaptation.
© 2015 Krishnan and Lyons; Published by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press.