Friday, January 24, 2014

How to combat the negative effects of hyperthermia on cognitive function?

Although cognitive performance improves with mild heat strain, an impairements might be observed at high levels of hyperthermia (gastrointestinal temperature above 39 oC, Racinais et al., 2008). Neck cooling has been shown to improve enduarnce performance in previous studies but very limited information exists on the effect of this method on cognitive function.

The study by Lee and colleagues, published this week in the European Journal of Applied Physiology, examined the effect of neck cooling on cognitive performance during prologed exercise in the heat. A neck-cooling collar was placed on the neck of individuals who run for 75min or until exhaustion in an environmental chamber which mantained dry bulb temperature of 30 oC and 70% relative humidity.

The main finding was that neck cooling may enhance performance in high complexity tasks. It is important to note that this beneficial effect was observed while the neck-cooling collar was kept at the neck for the enitre period of exercise. Although this method of cooling could be applied in some endurance events, certain questions need to be answered before using it in team sports. For instance, what is the effect of neck cooling when applied just before the start of the match an/or in half-time?

For further reading
Lee et al. Neck cooling and cognitive performance following exercise-induced hyperthermia. Eur J Appl Physiol 2014;114: 375-384
Racinais et al. Hyperthermia impairs short-term memory and peripheral motor drive transmission. J Physiol 2008;586: 4751-4762

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