So says a team of psychologists from the University of California, Berkeley. The researchers based their findings on a four week study of jet-lagged hamsters. The psychologists weren’t surprised to discover that the hamsters had trouble learning and remembering simple tasks while jet lagged. What surprised the scientists, however, was that the memory and learning deficit lasted an entire month after the critters had been returned to their regular programming.
The answer, they say, seems to lie in the hippocampus, a part of the brain used for processing memory. Even though the brain is constantly creating new neurons, after a month of jet-lag, the hamsters had only half the number of new neurons in the hippocampus region as non-jet-lagged rodents in the study’s control group.
Another study, conducted by Dr. Cho Kwangwook of the University of Bristol Medical School, revealed similar findings. Based on a study of flight attendants, Dr. Kwangwook concluded that chronic jet lag shrinks the frontal portion of the brain, resulting in temporary loss of memory and cognitive skills.