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Does Heat Make it Harder to Think?

Does Heat Make it Harder to Think?

As the summer heats up here in SoFlo, do you find yourself struggling more to remember things? Do tasks that took you a few minutes in January take longer in June? As it turns out, heat may affect cognitive function.

Studies have shown that test scores in schools tend to decrease during the hotter months, and convenience stores sell more “quick pick” lottery tickets than scratch-offs (ostensibly because people have more difficulty choosing between the vast variety of scratch-offs).

In one study, groups of people were put in either cool or hot rooms and asked to choose between two cell phone plans that offered the same benefits: one that looked good on the surface, but was more expensive; and another that was less expensive, but required a little bit thinking to get to that conclusion. More often people in the hot room chose the more expensive plan, while those in the cooler room chose the more reasonable, cost-effective plan.

So, how does heat affect our thinking? Glucose is the precursor molecule of energy production in the body. We need glucose to run all the processes in our body, including temperature regulation and cognition.

One theory is that our bodies need to work harder, and thus burn more glucose, in warmer environments. As the body depletes glucose stores trying to keep cool (sweating), it leaves less available energy for other functions like thinking. This leads to slower thought processes and poorer decision making.

The take home: drink plenty of fluids this summer, leave the heavy mental-lifting for the mornings or evenings, and try to stay cool out there, Soflo.


Joseph Pate, D.C. Doctor of Chiropractic

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