Regional distribution of thermal sensitivity to cold at rest and during mild exercise in males
journal contributionposted on 14.06.2012, 12:36 by Yacine Ouzzahra, Bernard Redortier, George Havenith
Although several studies have compared thermal sensitivity between body segments, little is known on regional variations within body segments. Furthermore, the effects of exercise on the thermal sensation resulting from a cold stimulus remain unclear. The current experiment therefore aimed to explore inter- and intra-segmental differences in thermal sensitivity to cold, at rest and during light exercise. Fourteen male participants (22.3±3.1 years; 181.6±6.2 cm; 73.7±10.3 kg) were tested at rest and whilst cycling at 30% VO2 max. Sixteen body sites (front torso=6; back=6; arms=4) were stimulated in a balanced order, using a 20 °C thermal probe (25 cm2) applied onto the skin. Thermal sensations resulting from the stimuli were assessed using an 11-point cold sensation scale (0=not cold; 10=extremely cold). Variations were found within body segments, particularly at the abdomen and mid-back where the lateral regions were significantly more sensitive than the medial areas. Furthermore, thermal sensations were significantly colder at rest compared to exercise in 12 of the 16 body sites tested. Neural and hormonal factors were considered as potential mechanisms behind this reduction in thermal sensitivity. Interestingly, the distribution of cold sensations was more homogenous during exercise. The present data provides evidence that thermal sensitivity to cold varies within body segments, and it is significantly reduced in most areas during exercise.