Literature Review: Cognitive Effects of Thermal Strain


  1. Bruyn, L.
  2. Lamoureux, T.
Corporate Authors
Defence R&D Canada - Toronto, Toronto ONT (CAN);Humansystems Inc, Guelph ONT (CAN)
This report reviews the literature on cognitive effects of thermal strain. Early research focused on the relationship between ambient temperature and various cognitive tasks including sensory, vigilance, reaction time, etc. More recent work has focused on the prescription of tolerance limits as well as attempts to generate a conceptual model to explain and predict the effects of heat on cognitive performance. In general, it was found that investigations relating thermal strain indicators, such as core temperature, to cognitive performance are sparse; the majority control and manipulate ambient temperature. Likewise, the isolation of other factors that may interact with heat to affect cognitive performance is infrequent. This report presents findings on the interaction effects of acclimatization, hydration level and operator skill, on human cognitive performance. Recent attempts have been made to conceptually model the effects of stress (i.e. heat) on human performance. In this review, three qualitative models are discussed and compared. The literature review failed to uncover any quantitative models. Finally, conclusions are made with respect to the need for research that is applicable to real-world, high- risk tasks in which cognitive performance is crucial such as fire fighting or military operations.

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thermal strain;heat strain;cognition;mental performance
Report Number
DRDC-TORONTO-CR-2004-191 — Contractor Report
Date of publication
28 Feb 2005
Number of Pages
Electronic Document(PDF)

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