Background: Heat stress potentially has detrimental effects on brain function. Hence, cognitive function may be impaired during physical activity in a hot environment. Skin cooling is often applied in a hot environment to counteract heat stress. However, it is unclear to what extent neck cooling is effective for cognitive impairment during exercise in a hot environment. The purpose of this study was to examine the effects of temporal neck cooling on cognitive function during strenuous exercise in a hot environment. Methods: Eight male young participants (mean ± SD, age = 26.1 ± 3.2 years; peak oxygen uptake = 45.6 ± 5.2 ml/kg/min) performed Spatial delayed response (DR) task (working memory) and Go/No-Go task (executive function) at rest and during exercise in the Hot and Hot + Cooling conditions. After the participants completed the cognitive tasks at rest, they cycled the ergometer until their heart rate (HR) reached 160 beats/min. Then, they cycled for 10 min while keeping their HR at 160 beats/min. The cognitive tasks were performed 3 min after their HR reached 160 beats/min. The air temperature was maintained at 35°C and the relative humidity was controlled at 70%. Neck cooling was applied to the backside of the neck by a wet towel and fanning. We used accuracy of the Spatial DR and Go/No-Go tasks and reaction time in the Go/No-Go task to assess cognitive function. Results: Neck cooling temporarily decreased the skin temperature during exercise. The accuracy of the cognitive tasks was lower during exercise than that at rest in the Hot and Hot + Cooling condition (p < 0.05). There were no differences in the accuracy between the Hot and Hot + Cooling conditions (p = 0.98). Neither exercise (p = 0.40) nor cooling (p = 0.86) affected reaction time. These results indicate that temporal neck cooling did not alter cognitive function during strenuous exercise in a hot environment. Conclusions: The present study suggests that temporal neck cooling with a wet towel and fanning is not effective for attenuating impairment of working memory and executive function during strenuous exercise with a short duration in a warm and humid environment.
Ando, S., Komiyama, T., Sudo, M., Kiyonaga, A., Tanaka, H., & Higaki, Y. (2015). The effects of temporal neck cooking on cognitive function during strenuous exercise in a hot environment: A pilot study. BMC Research Notes, 8(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s13104-015-1210-0