Exposure to cold causes disturbances in cognitive performance that can have a profound impact on the safety, performance, and success of populations that frequent cold environments. It has recently been suggested that repeated cold stress, resulting in cold acclimation, may be a potential strategy to mitigate the cognitive impairments frequently seen upon exposure to cold temperatures. The purpose of this study, therefore, was to examine cognitive and neurophysiological function during repeated cold water immersion. Twelve healthy participants consisting of 8 males and 4 females (mean ± SD age: 26 ± 5 years, height: 174.0 ± 8.9 cm, weight: 75.6 ± 13.1 kg) completed seven 90-minute immersions in 10 °C water, each separated by 24 h. During immersions 1, 4, and 7, a double-digit addition task and a computer-based psychomotor vigilance task (PVT) were administered to assess cognitive performance, while neurophysiological function was assessed using electroencephalography (EEG) measurements collected during the PVT. Findings suggest that participants experienced an insulative type of cold acclimation, evidenced by greater heat retention and less shivering, with possible improvements in cognitive performance. Participants had more correct responses on the double-digit addition task on Immersion 7 (39 ± 5) compared with Immersion 1 (33 ± 6); p < 0.001, yet no differences were observed for reaction time between Immersion 7 (286 ± 31 ms) and Immersion 1 (281 ± 19 ms); p = 0.59. Additionally, EEG analyses indicate no beneficial changes in neurophysiological function. Results demonstrate that individuals who are frequently exposed to cold water may be more suited to handle certain cognitive challenges after several exposures, although additional investigations are needed to provide neurophysiological support for this.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-9
Number of pages9
JournalBrain Research
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2019

ID: 45909895