High Temperatures Can Slow Down Cognitive Abilities, Study Finds

Category: Health


Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

  1. reside / rɪˈzaɪd / (v) – to live or stay in a specific place

    I currently reside in Tokyo, but I’m originally from Osaka.

  2. soar / ˈsoɚ / (v) – to increase

    The temperature in our area soars during summer.

  3. unmindful / ˌʌnˈmaɪndfəl / (adj) – not paying attention to certain things

    Most people are unmindful of the effects of not getting enough sleep.

  4. false sense of security / fɑːls sɛns ʌv sɪˈkjɚrəti / (idiom) – the feeling or expectation of being secure when one is not

    Exercising gave him a false sense of security that he was physically fit even if he had an unhealthy diet.

  5. adverse / ædˈvɚs / (adj) – not favorable or not ideal

    Excessive exposure to heat has a lot of adverse health effects.


Read the text below.

A study has found that exposure to high temperatures slows down the brain’s cognitive abilities.

Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health researchers tracked 44 18- to 29-year-old university students who resided in dormitories in Boston. Of all the students, 24 stayed in dormitories with air conditioners (AC), having an indoor temperature of about 71 degrees Fahrenheit. Meanwhile, 20 students lived in AC-free dormitories with temperatures reaching around 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

Each morning for 12 days, the students answered tests that measured their cognitive abilities, including processing speed, memory, and attention.

Results showed that students in buildings with no AC performed more poorly in the tests compared to the other group. The researchers also discovered that the largest difference between the two groups’ cognitive performances took place during days when the outdoor temperature was colder.

According to the researchers, the results can be explained by how indoor temperature continues to soar even when outdoor temperature has declined because heat can be trapped within buildings. Being unmindful of indoor heat can give people a false sense of security that they will no longer experience the adverse effects of high temperatures.

Aside from affecting people’s cognitive abilities, exposure to heat has also been linked to mental health problems. A study from Umeå [Y-muh-oh] University in Sweden examined hospital admission records from 2008 to 2012 at Vietnam’s Hanoi Mental Hospital. Findings revealed that the admissions related to mental illnesses significantly increased during the hot season. The number of recorded cases for mental disorder was also 24% higher in summer than in winter.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

• Aside from affecting cognitive abilities, what do you think are the other health effects of excessive exposure to heat?
• What do you think can be done to mitigate these health effects?

Discussion B

• Why is it important to determine how temperature can affect a person’s health?
• What do you think can be done to help people adjust to different temperatures?