The Effects of Simulated Wildland Firefighting Tasks on Core Temperature and Cognitive Function under Very Hot Conditions

Article


Williams-Bell, F. Michael, Aisbett, Brad, Murphy, Bernadette A. and Larsen, Brianna. 2017. "The Effects of Simulated Wildland Firefighting Tasks on Core Temperature and Cognitive Function under Very Hot Conditions." Frontiers in Physiology. 8, pp. 1-10. https://doi.org/10.3389/fphys.2017.00815
Article Title

The Effects of Simulated Wildland Firefighting Tasks on Core Temperature and Cognitive Function under Very Hot Conditions

ERA Journal ID200523
Article CategoryArticle
AuthorsWilliams-Bell, F. Michael (Author), Aisbett, Brad (Author), Murphy, Bernadette A. (Author) and Larsen, Brianna (Author)
Journal TitleFrontiers in Physiology
Journal Citation8, pp. 1-10
Article Number815
Number of Pages10
Year2017
Place of PublicationSwitzerland
ISSN1664-042X
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.3389/fphys.2017.00815
Web Address (URL)https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fphys.2017.00815/full
Abstract

Background
The severity of wildland fires is increasing due to continually hotter and drier summers. Firefighters are required to make life altering decisions on the fireground, which requires analytical thinking, problem solving, and situational awareness. This study aimed to determine the effects of very hot (45°C; HOT) conditions on cognitive function following periods of simulated wildfire suppression work when compared to a temperate environment (18°C; CON).

Methods
Ten male volunteer firefighters intermittently performed a simulated fireground task for 3 h in both the CON and HOT environments, with cognitive function tests (paired associates learning and spatial span) assessed at baseline (cog 1) and during the final 20-min of each hour (cog 2, 3, and 4). Reaction time was also assessed at cog 1 and cog 4. Pre- and post- body mass were recorded, and core and skin temperature were measured continuously throughout the protocol.

Results
There were no differences between the CON and HOT trials for any of the cognitive assessments, regardless of complexity. While core temperature reached 38.7°C in the HOT (compared to only 37.5°C in the CON; p < 0.01), core temperature declined during the cognitive assessments in both conditions (at a rate of −0.15 ± 0.20°C·hr−1 and −0.63 ± 0.12°C·hr−1 in the HOT and CON trial respectively). Firefighters also maintained their pre-exercise body mass in both conditions, indicating euhydration.

Conclusions
It is likely that this maintenance of euhydration and the relative drop in core temperature experienced between physical work bouts was responsible for the preservation of firefighters' cognitive function in the present study.

Keywordscognition, thermoregulation, heat stress, firefighters, occupation
ANZSRC Field of Research 2020420702. Exercise physiology
Byline AffiliationsDurham College, Canada
Deakin University
University of Ontario Institute of Technology, Canada
Open access urlhttps://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fphys.2017.00815/full
Institution of OriginUniversity of Southern Queensland
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