Monday, 3 Oct 2022

A neuroscientist explains how heatwaves affect our brains

Anyone else feel like they can’t focus?

We’ve entered into yet another heatwave, and while some might be basking in the sun, our brains could be suffering.

Multiple studies over the years have shown that workers and students struggle to perform at optimal levels when the temperature rises – with work and exam scores lowering.

Dr Elisabeth Philipps, a clinical neuroscientist for health and wellbeing brand Fourfive, shares the science behind what happens to the brain in the heat.

She says: ‘As the temperature goes up, cognitive function goes down because heat affects our brain.

‘Higher temperatures can stop nerve fibres from working properly.

‘This means that sometimes messages cannot get to and from the brain which is why you may experience fatigue, weakness, or problems with balance or vision.’

This happens because the hypothalamus (the part of the brain that regulates our temperature) has to work overtime in the warmer weather.

‘This part of the brain is also affected by hormonal changes, so combined with the heat this can slow brain messages from getting through which will affect our brain function, mood and cognition,’ she adds.

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