08 May Direct exposure of the head to solar heat radiation impairs motor-cognitive performance
Piil JF, Christiansen L, Morris NB, Mikkelsen CJ, Ioannou LG, Flouris AD, Lundbye-Jensen J, & Nybo L. Direct exposure of the head to solar heat radiation impairs motor-cognitive performance. Sci Rep 10, 7812 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-64768-w.
Health and performance impairments provoked by thermal stress are societal challenges geographically spreading and intensifying with global warming. Yet, science may be underestimating the true impact, since no study has evaluated effects of sunlight exposure on human brain temperature and function. Accordingly, performance in cognitively dominated and combined motor-cognitive tasks and markers of rising brainstem temperature were evaluated during exposure to simulated sunlight (equal to ~1000 watt/m2).
Acute exposure did not affect any performance measures, whereas prolonged exposure of the head and neck provoked an elevation of the core temperature by 1 °C and significant impairments of cognitively dominated and motor task performances. Importantly, impairments emerged at considerably lower hyperthermia levels compared to previous experiments and to the trials in the presents study without radiant heating of the head. These findings highlight the importance of including the effect of sunlight radiative heating of the head and neck in future scientific evaluations of environmental heat stress impacts and specific protection of the head to minimize detrimental effects.
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