Normally I wouldn’t pay much if any attention to a study published in an outlet called Chaos: Interdisciplinary Journal of Nonlinear Science especially one with a dry academic title as “Resynchronization of circadian oscillators and the east-west asymmetry of jet-lag” however another online source, Science Daily, helped put it in enough layman’s terms that it was actually interesting and helped answer one question I’d formulated after years of long-haul jet travel: was jet lag worse when I travelled¬†East? The answer according to a team of University of Maryland researchers is that yes, it is thanks to how our internal body clock ticks. More from the Science Daily article:

Travelers frequently report experiencing a significantly slower jet lag recovery after an eastward vs. westward flight. While some are quick to dismiss this complaint as being ‘all in their head,’ new research suggests it may be caused by the oscillation of a certain type of brain cells. Circadian rhythms, which govern jet lag recovery, are controlled by the synchronization of many neuronal oscillators within the brain. Brain cells within the hypothalamus — the region of the brain that governs circadian rhythms — undergo daily cycles of activity.

But after a rapid time zone shift, the brain’s oscillatory circadian pacemaker cells are incapable of instantly adjusting to a rhythm appropriate to the new time zone.

So a team of University of Maryland researchers decided to explore whether the east-west asymmetry of jet lag could be understood via mathematical models of these oscillations of cells within the brain, and made some interesting discoveries about the dynamics involved, which they report in the journal Chaos, from AIP Publishing.

Source: Science Daily East-west asymmetry of jet lag recovery due to oscillation of brain cells