June 29, 2023

NIOSH Study to Assess Cognitive Effects of Heat Exposure

A study proposed by NIOSH will aim to assess the cognitive effects of heat exposure on workers. The study will focus primarily on heat strain among miners in the United States and will include both field and laboratory components. While previous studies have shown associations between heat stress and cognitive deficits, more information is needed about factors that contribute to individual variability in physiologic and cognitive responses to heat exposure, the Federal Register notice announcing the project explains. Researchers will examine factors such as age, sex, chronic disease, fitness level, and hydration as well as interactions between these factors. The study will seek to determine the factors most affect individual variability when it comes to cognitive and physiologic responses to heat.

“[I]ndividual variability likely affects the usefulness of one-size-fits-all heat stress indices that are currently used in mining,” the notice reads. “A better understanding of how individual variability and core body temperature relate to cognitive deficits would assist in developing strategies for screening and monitoring miners to mitigate or prevent heat strain.”

Other questions researchers hope to answer include whether a core body temperature threshold exists at which cognitive performance begins to decline and what patterns of duration and intensity of heat strain are most common among surface and underground miners.

Further information regarding this study can be found in the Federal Register. CDC is accepting comments on the proposed project until Aug. 15.

Related: Previous Synergist articles cover how to reduce heat burden from personal protective equipment and other factors, critical factors for heat stress assessment and prevention, and wearable sensors for heat stress management.