Scientists gave some hamsters the frequent flier treatment and found that their brains birthed fewer neurons. The sleep-confused rodents also had learning and memory issues almost a month after their simulated travel ordeal. —PZS
Science News via Wired:
[Study coauthor Erin] 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.
Jet lag decreases the numbers of new neurons being born in the hippocampus by about 50 percent, the team found. Mental function suffered, too: The jet-lagged hamsters were worse at learning which of two chambers contained a desirable running wheel. Even after 28 days of a back-to-normal schedule, the formerly jet-lagged hamsters still showed learning and memory problems. The mismatch between the internal body clock and the external environment “is having a long-term effect on learning and memory,” Gibson said.