Study Reveals Brain Mechanisms that Resist Extreme Cold
Researchers studied the brain mechanisms when exposed to extreme cold conditions to help manage autoimmune disorders, according to a study published on March 8, 2018.
Researchers from Wayne State University School of Medicine, studied the brain mechanism of Dutch adventurer, Wim Hof, who is popularly known as The Iceman. Hof set several world records for prolonged resistance to cold exposure, due to his self-developed techniques of breathing and meditation.
The team studied how The Iceman’s brain responds during experimentally controlled whole-body cold exposure. They studied Hof’s brain and body functions using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and positron emission tomography (PET). He wore a specifically designed whole-body suit that could be infused with temperature-controlled water, while the imaging data was acquired.
Hof used a method that made his skin temperature relatively invariant to cold exposure, a finding the researchers attributed to his increased sympathetic innervation and glucose consumption in intercostal muscle revealed by PET imaging. By this method, he was able to generate heat that dissipates to lung tissue and warms circulating blood in the pulmonary capillaries.
“The willful regulation of skin temperature — and, by implication, core body temperature, even when the body is being stressed with cold — is an unusual occurrence and may explain his resistance to frostbite,” said Muzik, author of the study. This discovery, thus, has the potential to help in the treatment of several autoimmune cases as well as psychiatric disorders.
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