The critical limiting temperature and selective brain cooling: neuroprotection during exercise?

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There is wide consensus that long duration exercise in the heat is impaired compared with cooler conditions. A common observation when examining exercise tolerance in the heat in laboratory studies is the critical limiting core temperature (CLT) and the apparent attenuation in central nervous system (CNS) drive leading to premature fatigue. Selective brain cooling (SBC) purportedly confers neuroprotection during exercise heat stress by attenuating the increase in brain temperature. As the CLT is dependent on heating to invoke a reduction in efferent drive, it is thus not compatible with SBC which supposedly attenuates the rise in brain temperature. Therefore, the CLT and SBC hypotheses cannot be complimentary if the goal is to confer neuroprotection from thermal insult as it is counter-intuitive to selectively cool the brain if the purpose of rising brain temperature is to down-regulate skeletal muscle recruitment. This presents a circular model for which there is no apparent end to the ultimate physiological outcome; a 'hot brain' selectively cooled in order to reduce the CNS drive to skeletal muscle. This review will examine the postulates of the CLT and SBC with their relationship to the avoidance of a 'hot brain' which together argue for a theoretical position against neuroprotection as the key physiological strategy in exercise-induced hyperthermia.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)582-590
Number of pages9
JournalInternational Journal of Hyperthermia
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2011


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