Relationship between alertness, performance, and body temperature in humans

Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol. 2002 Dec;283(6):R1370-7. doi: 10.1152/ajpregu.00205.2002. Epub 2002 Aug 15.


Body temperature has been reported to influence human performance. Performance is reported to be better when body temperature is high/near its circadian peak and worse when body temperature is low/near its circadian minimum. We assessed whether this relationship between performance and body temperature reflects the regulation of both the internal biological timekeeping system and/or the influence of body temperature on performance independent of circadian phase. Fourteen subjects participated in a forced desynchrony protocol allowing assessment of the relationship between body temperature and performance while controlling for circadian phase and hours awake. Most neurobehavioral measures varied as a function of internal biological time and duration of wakefulness. A number of performance measures were better when body temperature was elevated, including working memory, subjective alertness, visual attention, and the slowest 10% of reaction times. These findings demonstrate that an increased body temperature, associated with and independent of internal biological time, is correlated with improved performance and alertness. These results support the hypothesis that body temperature modulates neurobehavioral function in humans.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Body Temperature*
  • Circadian Rhythm / physiology
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory / physiology
  • Reaction Time
  • Sleep / physiology
  • Time Factors
  • Wakefulness / physiology