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Reduced Cognitive Function for Students During Heat Waves

Students with AC had increase in reaction time and reduction in throughput in two cognitive tests

hot temperatures

TUESDAY, July 24, 2018 (HealthDay News) -- Cognitive function deficits resulting from indoor thermal conditions during heat waves affect university students, according to a study published online July 10 in PLOS Medicine.

Jose Guillermo Cedeño Laurent, from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston, and colleagues conducted a prospective observational cohort study to examine the differential impact of having air conditioning (AC) on cognitive function during a heat wave. A total of 44 university students living in AC (24 students) and non-AC (20 students) buildings were followed before, during, and after a heat wave. For a period of 12 days, two cognition tests were self-administered: the Stroop color-word test (STROOP) and a two-digit, visual addition/subtraction test (ADD).

The researchers found that the mean indoor temperatures were significantly higher in the non-AC group than in the AC group. Among non-AC residents relative to AC residents at baseline, difference-in-differences modeling estimates showed an increase in reaction time (STROOP, 13.4 percent; ADD, 13.3 percent) and a reduction in throughput (STROOP, −9.9 percent; ADD, −6.3 percent) during heat waves. ADD showed a linear correlation with indoor temperatures, while a U-shaped curve described STROOP, with linear effects below and above an optimum range (indoor temperature 22 to 23 degrees Celsius), with increased reaction time of 16 and 24 ms/degree Celsius, respectively.

"Our findings highlight the importance of incorporating sustainable adaptation measures in buildings to preserve educational attainment, economic productivity, and safety in light of a changing climate," the authors write.

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