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The effects of simulated wildland firefighting tasks on core temperature and cognitive function under very hot conditions

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, vol. 8, pp. 1-10, doi: 10.3389/fphys.2017.00815.

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Title The effects of simulated wildland firefighting tasks on core temperature and cognitive function under very hot conditions
Author(s) Williams-Bell, F Michael
Aisbett, BradORCID iD for Aisbett, Brad orcid.org/0000-0001-8077-0272
Murphy, Bernadette A
Larsen, Brianna
Journal name Frontiers in physiology
Volume number 8
Article ID 815
Start page 1
End page 10
Total pages 10
Publisher Frontiers Media
Place of publication Lausanne, Switzerland
Publication date 2017-10-24
ISSN 1664-042X
Keyword(s) cognition
firefighters
heat stress
occupation
thermoregulation
science & technology
life sciences & biomedicine
physiology
Summary 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.
Language eng
DOI 10.3389/fphys.2017.00815
Field of Research 110602 Exercise Physiology
HERDC Research category C1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal
ERA Research output type C Journal article
Copyright notice ©2017, Williams-Bell, Aisbett, Murphy and Larsen
Free to Read? Yes
Use Rights Creative Commons Attribution licence
Persistent URL http://hdl.handle.net/10536/DRO/DU:30108775

Document type: Journal Article
Collections: School of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences
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Every reasonable effort has been made to ensure that permission has been obtained for items included in DRO. If you believe that your rights have been infringed by this repository, please contact drosupport@deakin.edu.au.