Hypoxia induces no change in cutaneous thresholds for warmth and cold sensation.

U.L. Malanda, J.P. Reulen, W.H. Saris, W.D. van Marken Lichtenbelt*

*Corresponding author for this work

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    Hypoxia can affect perception of temperature stimuli by impeding thermoregulation at a neural level. Whether this impact on the thermoregulatory response is solely due to affected thermoregulation is not clear, since reaction time may also be affected by hypoxia. Therefore, we studied the effect of hypoxia on thermal perception thresholds for warmth and cold. Thermal perception thresholds were determined in 11 healthy overweight adult males using two methods for small nerve fibre functioning: a reaction-time inclusive method of limits (MLI) and a reaction time exclusive method of levels (MLE). The subjects were measured under normoxic and hypoxic conditions using a cross-over design. Before the thermal threshold tests under hypoxic conditions were conducted, the subjects were acclimatized by staying 14 days overnight (8 h) in a hypoxic tent system (Colorado Altitude Training: 4,000 m). For normoxic measurements the same subjects were not acclimatized, but were used to sleep in the same tent system. Measurements were performed in the early morning in the tent. Normoxic MLI cold sensation threshold decreased significantly from 30.3 +/- 0.4 (mean +/- SD) to 29.9 +/- 0.7 degrees C when exposed to hypoxia (P < 0.05). Similarly, mean normoxic MLI warm sensation threshold increased from 34.0 +/- 0.9 to 34.5 +/- 1.1 degrees C (P < 0.05). MLE measured threshold for cutaneous cold sensation was 31.4 +/- 0.4 and 31.2 +/- 0.9 degrees C under respectively normoxic and hypoxic conditions (P > 0.05). Neither was there a significant change in MLE warm threshold comparing normoxic (32.8 +/- 0.9 degrees C) with hypoxic condition (32.9 +/- 1.0 degrees C) (P > 0.05). Exposure to normobaric hypoxia induces slowing of neural activity in the sensor-to-effector pathway and does not affect cutaneous sensation threshold for either warmth or cold detection.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)375-381
    JournalEuropean Journal of Applied Physiology
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2008

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