Performance in complex motor tasks deteriorates in hyperthermic humans

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Heat stress, leading to elevations in whole-body temperature, has a marked impact on both physical performance and cognition in ecological settings. Lab experiments confirm this for physically demanding activities, whereas observations are inconsistent for tasks involving cognitive processing of information or decision-making prior to responding. We hypothesized that divergences could relate to task complexity and developed a protocol consisting of 1) simple motor task [TARGET_pinch], 2) complex motor task [Visuo-motor tracking], 3) simple math task [MATH_type], 4) combined motor-math task [MATH_pinch]. Furthermore, visuo-motor tracking performance was assessed both in a separate- and a multipart protocol (complex motor tasks alternating with the three other tasks). Following familiarization, each of the 10 male subjects completed separate and multipart protocols in randomized order in the heat (40°C) or control condition (20°C) with testing at baseline (seated rest) and similar seated position, following exercise-induced hyperthermia (core temperature ∼ 39.5°C in the heat and 38.2°C in control condition). All task scores were unaffected by control exercise or passive heat exposure, but visuo-motor tracking performance was reduced by 10.7 ± 6.5% following exercise-induced hyperthermia when integrated in the multipart protocol and 4.4 ± 5.7% when tested separately (bothP < 0.05). TARGET_pinch precision declined by 2.6 ± 1.3% (P < 0.05), while no significant changes were observed for the math tasks. These results indicate that heat per se has little impact on simple motor or cognitive test performance, but complex motor performance is impaired by hyperthermia and especially so when multiple tasks are combined.

Original languageEnglish
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)420-428
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - 2017

    Research areas

  • Cognitive test, Core temperature, Cognition, Heat stress, Heat strain, Hyperthermia, Motor performance, Task complexity, Visuo-motor tracking

Number of downloads are based on statistics from Google Scholar and

No data available

ID: 189869147