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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.