Jet lag may be good for brain, Northwestern University researchers say

EVANSTON, Ill. -- Jet lag may have a positive impact on the brain.

In a new study, Northwestern University researchers induced jet lag in a fruit fly model of Huntington's disease and found that jet lag protected the flies' neurons.

"We essentially gave the flies jet lag for every day of their lives," said Northwestern's Dr. Ravi Allada, a circadian rhythm expert who led the research. "It's like traveling four hours east every day."

Although fruit flies might seem completely different from humans, the neurons that govern flies' sleep-wake cycles are strikingly similar to humans', according to Allada.

The team then identified and tested a circadian clock-controlled gene that, when knocked down, also protected the brain from the disease.

Researchers say the findings reveal potential new treatment to slow the progression of or prevent neurodegenerative diseases.

"It seems counterintuitive, but we showed that a little bit of stress is good," said Allada,.