Jet lag might make you dumb

Shifting time zones might be a serious health threat. Tests have shown that it makes hamsters stupid!

Scientists discovered jet lag makes hamsters stupid. Anyone who has traveled knows the feeling. But the effects of that mental fog might have a lasting impact on your health and your mind.

Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley presented the results of their study at the Society for Neuroscience meeting this week. The scientists tricked the hamsters into jet-lag by changing their sleep schedule by six hours every three days for a month.

The point was to mock what happens when people travel. The hamsters basically got a flavor of what it would be like to travel from New York to Paris every three days. The hamsters didn't get less sleep, they were just put on a dysfunctional sleep cycle. I know the feeling, as I've been commuting from New York to San Francisco often.

Science reports that chronic jet lag actually affects the birth of new neurons. The hamsters produced 50 percent less neurons than they normally do.

The jet-lagged hamsters weren't as smart either.

When scientists tried to teach the hamsters that one of the chambers had a running wheel, the hamsters who were jet-lagged weren't as smart about finding it. Even after some time, the jet-lagged hamsters still had memory and learning difficulties.

The scientists aren't exactly sure how jet lag causes all of these problems, but they think it probably has something to do with the "sleep hormone melatonin, sleep and increase in cell death," according to Science.

Previous studies have shown that people with irregular sleep patterns are more likely to suffer from diseases like diabetes and cancer. But this Berkeley study goes to show that traveling can really mess with the internal body clock and cause long term memory and learning problems.

Now that's just another thing to worry about when you travel, especially with all of the security scanning issues lately.

via Science News

Photo: flickr/ jpeter smith

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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