The Effect of Cooling the Head to Reduce Brain Temperature on Stress
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Science
Stress is associated with a vast array of negative outcomes for both physical and mental health. Based on evidence that stress influences temperature, and that psychology and physiology influence each other, we investigated the novel possibility that reducing brain temperature reduces stress in a sample of 91 university students. We used head fanning to reduce brain temperature and measured this change with an infrared ear thermometer. Participants were randomly assigned so that the fans faced toward half of the participants (cooling condition) and faced away from the other half (non-cooling control condition). Differences in stress between conditions during the Vandenberg and Kuse (1978) Mental Rotations Test were then examined to test the hypotheses that (a) cooling would buffer stress and (b) that this would be mediated by changes in brain temperature, as indicated by ear temperature. Participants in the cooling condition were less stressed (p = .02) and also performed better (p = .03) during the task but neither of these findings were mediated by ear temperature. Thus, some uncontrolled variable(s), and not changes in temperature, may have been responsible for the effect of cooling on stress. Alternatively, error in measuring brain temperature may have obscured the hypothesised causal relationship between temperature and stress. More research is needed to confirm whether cooling the head is a simple way to manage stress.