SAN DIEGO — In addition to making you groggy and dazed, jet lag may make you stupid. A study presented November 15 at the annual Society for Neuroscience meeting finds that hamsters suffering extreme, chronic jet lag had about half the normal rate of new neuron birth in a part of the brain. What’s more, these animals showed deficits in learning and memory.
Jet lag poses a serious health threat, said study coauthor Erin Gibson of the University of California, Berkeley. Studies have shown that people with work schedules that require them to frequently change their sleep patterns have higher rates of cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and cancer.
Gibson and colleagues subjected hamsters to jet lag by advancing their day and night schedule by six hours every three days for nearly a month. “It would be like a flight from New York to Paris every three days,” Gibson said. The hamsters’ total sleep amount didn’t change, but the hours spent awake and asleep were completely unrelated to the external environment, like an East Coast businesswoman popping out of bed at 3 a.m. in California.
It’s difficult to see a fellow rodent succumb to this kind of experimentation, but we prioritize knowing everything we can about travel over hamster well-being.
So if you’ve been doing a lot of flying lately and feel a bit like a jet-lagged hamster, now you know why.