Post-sauna recovery enhances brain neural network relaxation and improves cognitive economy in oddball tasks

Int J Hyperthermia. 2018;35(1):375-382. doi: 10.1080/02656736.2018.1504992. Epub 2018 Oct 9.


Objective: The aim of this study was to investigate the post-sauna residual consequences on brain neural network arousal, information processing and cognitive performance.

Methods: Sixteen male subjects (24 ± 1 yr.) participated in the study. Whole-body hyperthermia was induced with Finnish sauna bathing. Before and 90 min after the sauna, resting electroencephalography (EEG) for spectral analysis and EEG event-related potentials (ERPs) during oddball tasks by two modalities (auditory and visual) were recorded.

Results: Sauna bathing increased rectal temperature (Tre, 37.11 ± 0.33 °C to 38.84 ± 0.32 °C) and heart rate (HR, 65.63 ± 9.39 bpm to 151.0 ± 21.8 bpm). At 90 min after the sauna, Tre (37.00 ± 0.29 °C) and HR (72.1 ± 2.80 bpm) recovered to baseline levels. An increase was found in alpha power following sauna recovery. In the visual task modality, post-sauna recovery led to enhancement in the N2 amplitude with centroparietal distribution and decreases in P3 amplitude with distribution along the frontoparietal axis for executive motor-cognitive processing. In the auditory task modality, post-sauna recovery led to a decrease in P3 amplitude with a frontoparietal distribution and this change was accompanied by auditory N2 amplitude enhancement along the centroparietal distribution for non-target cognitive processing. No significant differences in task performance were found.

Conclusion: Post-sauna recovery to normothermia led to enhanced resting neural network relaxation followed by increases in cognitive processing economy for the given oddball tasks. The auditory processing was not affected more by post-sauna recovery than was visual processing. Post-sauna recovery modifications in ERP components (stimulus processing) were insufficient to affect cognitive performance in both visual and auditory task modalities.

Keywords: Hyperthermia; alpha power; auditory task; event-related brain potential (ERP); visual task.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain / blood supply*
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Electroencephalography / methods*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Nerve Net / physiopathology*
  • Steam Bath / methods*
  • Young Adult