Cognitive function during lower body water immersion and post-immersion afterdrop

Yongsuk Seo, Chul Ho Kim, Edward J. Ryan, John Gunstad, Ellen L. Glickman, Matthew D. Muller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Introduction: The physiological effects of immersion hypothermia and afterdrop are well-characterized, but the psychological effects are less clear. The purpose of this study was to quantify changes in cognitive function during and after lower body water immersion. Methods: On separate mornings, nine young healthy men participated in both neutral (35 ± 1°C) and cold (13 ± 1°C) water immersion. Subjects rested in neutral air for 30 min followed by 60 min water immersion to the iliac crest and 15 min of recovery in neutral air. Rectal temperature and mean skin temperature were continuously monitored. Metabolic rate, the Stroop Color Word Test (SCWT), and the Profile of Mood State (POMS) were quantified at predetermined intervals. Results: During immersion in cold water, rectal temperature was reduced, but SCWT and POMS scores were unchanged relative to baseline. Despite the reduced rectal temperature, little to no shivering was observed during immersion and metabolic rate did not change. During recovery from cold immersion, rectal temperature was further reduced by; 0.5°C, shivering was noted, and metabolic rate increased. Coincident with this acute afterdrop, SCWT Color-Word performance (Δ = 2 4 ± 8 vs. 7 ± 6 correct responses) and Interference score (Δ = 2 2 ± 7 vs. 4 ± 8) was impaired relative to recovery from neutral immersion (i.e., when core temperature and metabolic rate did not change). Conclusion: These results suggest that recovery from lower body cold water immersion elicits the afterdrop phenomenon and shivering, which together impair selective attention as measured by the SCWT.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)921-926
Number of pages6
JournalAviation Space and Environmental Medicine
Issue number9
StatePublished - 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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