Friday April 26, 2019

Hot Dorm Rooms Could Affect Students’ Memory

Extreme heat exposure is the biggest killer of all climate phenomena in the United States, killing 7,000 people between 1999 and 2010

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FILE - Students surf the internet in their dorm room at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Conn., April 24. (VOA)

Is your dorm room stifling hot? That might impact your memory.

New research shows that heat can affect even healthy young adults intellectually, with worse cognitive performance observed in students who slept in a non-air-conditioned room during a heat wave.

Researchers from Harvard University recruited 24 students who slept with air-conditioning and 20 who slept in rooms without AC before, during and after a Boston-area heat wave.

They recorded temperature, relative humidity, carbon dioxide and noise in each bedroom throughout the study.

The indoor temperature of the non-air-conditioned dorm averaged 26.3 C (79.3 F) compared with 21.4 C (70.5 F) in the dorm with air-conditioning.

Each participant wore an activity monitor to measure heart rate, perspiration and sleep quality. When the students woke up each morning, they were tested for how quickly and accurately they completed two cognitive tests that measured memory and reaction.

Researchers also noted how much water and caffeine the students consumed, and how long they spent outdoors each day.

After 12 days, researchers were surprised by the data.

The dorms without AC were louder at night because of fan and street noise, which could have disrupted sleep.
The dorms without AC were louder at night because of fan and street noise, which could have disrupted sleep. Pixabay

“We found very significant effect of detrimental cognitive function among those students that didn’t have air-conditioning during this heat wave period,” said lead author Jose Guillermo Cedeno Laurent of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

The students who didn’t have air-conditioning performed significantly worse on the basic cognitive tests. In particular, going without AC during a heat wave hurt their reaction time when they had to make quick judgments.

“Their study really demonstrated that exposure to heat can have all these potential effects on people’s daily activities,” said Daisy Chang, an organizational psychologist at Michigan State University in East Lansing.

“A whole host of reasons could potentially explain this exposure effect,” Chang noted. “It’s not necessarily directly exposure to heat. [The heat] could have affected their sleep quality so they’re less rested, they have less energy, or mental resources, or ability to focus.”

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The dorms without AC were louder at night because of fan and street noise, which could have disrupted sleep.

And while air-conditioned rooms can hold higher levels of carbon dioxide, which can have a negative impact on cognition, the students slept better in a cooler room.

“We find that heatwaves are impacting us all,” Cedeno said. “These … extend to those like the young and healthy university students. And that we find significant effects on the way they think – their cognitive functions.”

Extreme heat exposure is the biggest killer of all climate phenomena in the United States, killing 7,000 people between 1999 and 2010. Previous research focused on how hot weather affects at-risk populations like the elderly and the very young. And 2016 was the hottest year on record for the past 200 years. (VOA)

Next Story

Space Radiation Can Hinder Formation of New Cells in Astronauts’ Brain Memory

The new research has filled an important gap in scientific knowledge in the study of the types of neutrons produced in the atmosphere or inside spacecraft during their atoms’ interactions with cosmic rays

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nasa
The team began with a simple mixture of hydrogen and 0.3 per cent carbon monoxide and heated it to 330-1,230 Celsius. They also exposed it to a high dose of ultraviolet (UV) radiation. Pixabay

While several agencies are planning to establish new orbital space stations and send expeditions across the solar system, a team of Russian scientists has found that space radiation could temporarily hinder formation of new cells in brains’ memory centres.

The team from the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology (MIPT), however, found that effects of low-dose neutron and gamma ray (Y-ray) radiation had no impact on rodents’ intellectual capabilities, the Sputnik news agency reported.

It means the mice’s mental abilities and behaviour remained almost unaffected by the radiation, with memorisation occurring as normal and the rodents behaving in ways that were no different from the non-irradiated control group.

Irradiated and non-irradiated mice “showed no differences in terms of exploratory behaviour or anxiety, six weeks after the irradiation,” with their “ability to form hippocampus-dependent memory also unaffected,” according to the study published in the NeuroReport academic journal.

NASA
According to report, the biggest concern is radiation as such a mission would expose astronauts to levels of radiation greater than permitted under current guidelines. That would not necessarily prevent a mission, but it remains a concern. Pixabay

“We are not asserting that the behaviour and memory of irradiated mice remained completely unaffected,” Sputnik cited Alexander Lazutkin, a senior research scientist at the MIPT as saying to RIA Novosti news agency.

“The data on other types of radiation suggests that despite the apparent preservation of memories, its individual fine components may suffer. That means our work is just the beginning of this kind of research,” he said.

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The new research has filled an important gap in scientific knowledge in the study of the types of neutrons produced in the atmosphere or inside spacecraft during their atoms’ interactions with cosmic rays, the researchers said. (IANS)