DEC 23, 2015 7:32 AM PST

Blame Genetics For Your Holiday Jet Lag

WRITTEN BY: Xuan Pham

Most people probably hate holiday traveling - the crowd, the long lines, and of course, the ensuing jet lag. The scientific term for jet lag is desynchronosis, and it happens when your body's internal natural circadian clock gets out of sync with the 24 hour clock in the real world. In addition to affecting your sleep-wake cycle, jet lag can also affect your hunger habits and even your bowel habits!

In researching dementia, scientists from the Salk Institute for Biological Studies discovered that one gene, Lhx1, is uniquely coded for light-sensing in the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) of the brain. The SCN is the body's master clock, as it is involved in the brain's ability to sense light and thus regulate the production of melatonin, the hormone that makes us sleepy.

Researchers found that mice lacking Lhx1 took less time to recover after an 8-hour shift in their day-night cycle, as compared to normal mice. The reduced "jet lag" could be due to neurons being less in sync with one another, and thus are able to adjust better to new light-dark schedules.

Watch the video to learn if there are any side effects to not having Lhx1, and what is still considered the best regulator of your circadian rhythm.
About the Author
  • I am a human geneticist, passionate about telling stories to make science more engaging and approachable. Find more of my writing at the Hopkins BioMedical Odyssey blog and at TheGeneTwist.com.
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