J42.3 Impact of Heat Waves on Cognitive Function among Young Adults

Wednesday, 10 January 2018: 11:00 AM
Room 17B (ACC) (Austin, Texas)
Jose Guillermo Cedeño Laurent, Harvard Univ., Boston, MA; and A. Williams, Y. Oulhote, A. Zanobetti, J. Allen, and J. Spengler

High ambient temperatures have been previously shown to impact cognitive function in adults who are vulnerable to extreme heat exposures. However, buildings can modify thermal exposure during heat waves (HWs), especially in colder regions where buildings have been designed to harness heat for warmth, thus extending the duration of high temperatures beyond the duration of the heat wave itself. Further, the health effects of heat stress were hypothesized to extend to larger sectors of the population that may not be deemed as particularly vulnerable to heat stress. We followed forty-four university students who had lived in AC (n=24) and non-AC (n=20) buildings before, during, and after a HW to evaluate the impact of the indoor temperature on cognitive function through the use of the STROOP color-word test. We estimated the impact of the HW on reaction time and cognitive throughput. Results demonstrate that HWs, and resulting indoor temperatures, can negatively impact acute cognitive function. This has important implications for the general population since educational attainment and economic productivity might be compromised during HWs. Heart rate, as measured by wearable devices, demonstrates significant differences between AC and non-AC populations during the HW event despite similar reported adaptive behaviors (i.e. hydration). This information highlights the need for sustainable adaptation measures and personalized heat indices that incorporate characteristics from the built environment and building thermal properties to reduce heat exposures risk in indoor environments.
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