The distribution of cutaneous sudomotor and alliesthesial thermosensitivity in mildly heat-stressed humans: an open-loop approach

J Physiol. 2005 May 15;565(Pt 1):335-45. doi: 10.1113/jphysiol.2004.081562. Epub 2005 Mar 10.


The distribution of cutaneous thermosensitivity has not been determined in humans for the control of autonomic or behavioural thermoregulation under open-loop conditions. We therefore examined local cutaneous warm and cool sensitivities for sweating and whole-body thermal discomfort (as a measure of alliesthesia). Thirteen males rested supine during warming (+4 degrees C), and mild (-4 degrees C) and moderate (-11 degrees C) cooling of ten skin sites (274 cm2), whilst the core and remaining skin temperatures were clamped above the sweat threshold using a water-perfusion suit and climate chamber. Local thermosensitivities were calculated from changes in sweat rates (pooled from sweat capsules on all limbs) and thermal discomfort, relative to the changes in local skin temperature. Thermosensitivities were examined across local sites and body segments (e.g. torso, limbs). The face displayed stronger cold (-11 degrees C) sensitivity than the forearm, thigh, leg and foot (P = 0.01), and was 2-5 times more thermosensitive than any other segment for both sudomotor and discomfort responses (P = 0.01). The face also showed greater warmth sensitivity than the limbs for sudomotor control and discomfort (P = 0.01). The limb extremities ranked as the least thermosensitive segment for both responses during warming, and for discomfort responses during moderate cooling (-11 degrees C). Approximately 70% of the local variance in sudomotor sensitivity was common to the alliesthesial sensitivity. We believe these open-loop methods have provided the first clear evidence for a greater facial thermosensitivity for sweating and whole-body thermal discomfort.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Body Temperature Regulation / physiology*
  • Feedback / physiology
  • Heat Stress Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Hot Temperature
  • Humans
  • Men
  • Skin Physiological Phenomena
  • Skin Temperature / physiology*
  • Sweat Glands / innervation
  • Sweat Glands / physiology*
  • Sweating / physiology
  • Thermosensing / physiology*