Impact of Elevated Core Body Temperature on Attention Networks

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Abstract

Objective and Background:

Cognitive function can be impaired after passive heat exposure and with an elevation in core body temperature (Tcore). This study examined the dynamic correlation among passive heat exposure, Tcore, and cognition.

Methods:

We gave the Attention Network Test of alerting, orienting, and executive control to five groups of five young men who were being exposed to a hyperthermic condition (50°C, 40% relative humidity) for 0, 10, 20, 30, or 40 minutes. We used the participants’ reaction time, accuracy (correct responses), efficiency (accuracy÷reaction time), and Tcore to estimate optimal curve models for best fit of data.

Results:

We could not estimate an appropriate curve model for either alerting or orienting with Tcore, change in Tcore, or duration of passive heat exposure. We estimated quadratic models for Tcore and duration (adjusted R2=0.752), change in Tcore and duration (0.906), executive control score and duration (0.509), and efficiency of executive control and duration (0.293). We estimated linear models for executive control score and Tcore (0.479), efficiency of executive control and Tcore (0.261), executive control score and change in Tcore (0.279), and efficiency of executive control and change in Tcore (0.262).

Conclusions:

Different attentional abilities had different sensitivities to thermal stress. Executive control of attention deteriorated linearly with a rise in Tcore within the normal physiologic range, but deteriorated nonlinearly with longer passive heat exposure.

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