US scientists are pondering a new issue which affects all travellers: does jet-lag lead to memory loss?
Aahh – sorry, but what was the question again..? Right. Yes. Memory loss.
It seems that long-distance travellers can now add memory loss to the list of jet-lag related woes such as headaches, insomnia and even mild depression.
Scientists at the University of California found the brain disruptions caused by jet-lag can cause travellers to become forgetful for at least a month after their journeys’ end.
The experiments were conducted on hamsters and effectively reset the animals’ body clocks by six hours twice a week for four weeks – almost the same as shuttling between Sydney or Melbourne and Dubai.
They found the hamsters had trouble using their short-term memory to learn tasks during the test period. (We're presuming the control hamster, who stayed in his own time zone, found it easy to memorise Pi to eighteen decimal places).
However, those effects continued long after the jetsetting rodents returned to their normal sleep pattern.
Online academic journal Plosone reported the disruption to the hamsters’ body clocks, or circadian rhythms, meant the creatures had fewer mature cells in the brain’s memory area.
"The evidence is overwhelming that disruptions in circadian timing have a direct impact on humans" says researcher, UC Berkeley associate professor of psychology and hamster fancier Lance Kriegsfeld.
"Whether you are a flight attendant, medical resident or rotating shift worker, repeated disruption of circadian rhythms is likely going to have a long-term impact on your cognitive behaviour and function.”