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Title: Skin temperature variations in the cold
Author: Fournet, Damien
Awarding Body: Loughborough University
Current Institution: Loughborough University
Date of Award: 2013
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Skin temperature plays an important role in human thermoregulation together with core temperature. Skin temperature varies to a large extent across the body and this is especially pronounced in cold environments. The variations of skin temperature are also involved in the generation of regional thermal perceptions that can lead to behavioural adjustments. Whilst the temporal and inter-individual variations of skin temperature have been well studied using contact sensors, the knowledge of spatial variations has received less attention in the literature. Infrared thermography is a specific imaging technique particularly valuable for the exploration of the topography or pattern of skin temperature across the body. Most research using this technique has only been case studies or experiments focused in one specific body region. However, extensive regional skin temperature data over the whole-body can be proven useful for different types of applications including the sport clothing industry in combination with other body-mapping data. The primary aim of this thesis was to develop an original and standardised method using infrared thermography enabling whole-body skin temperature data to be compared for the assessment of spatial, temporal and inter-individual variations. A specific methodology for infrared data collection and data processing was successfully developed in order to combine data from a variety of participants varying in anthropometrical characteristics. The main outcomes were the production of several skin temperature body maps, either absolute maps to show the magnitude of the temporal or inter-individual effects, and normalised maps (relative to mean skin temperature) allowing for topographical comparisons between protocol stages, populations or interventions. The second aim of the thesis was to extend the understanding of the skin temperature patterns and how these could relate with thermal perceptions. The body-mapping method gave the opportunity to investigate a large amount of conditions, where various internal or external determinants of skin temperature were be involved. This was mainly done in cool to cold environments (5°C to 20°C) where skin temperature is not uniform but is associated with local and overall comfort. Studies were firstly performed in semi-nude conditions (Chapter 3, 4, 5) and then in clothed conditions (Chapter 6 and 7). The semi-nude studies were designed to explore the potential sexdifferences in regional skin temperature responses whilst running (Chapter 3) with a special interest in the role of skinfold thickness, this was further extended with a group of males at rest having a large variety of fat content and thickness (Chapter 4). The influence of exercise type and air temperature on skin temperature patterns was studied with a rowing exercise (Chapter 5). Studies were then performed in clothed conditions (Chapter 5, 6). The influence of real-life conditions on skin temperature patterns and associated perceptual responses was observed during a hiking scenario (Chapter 6). Following these descriptive studies, manipulation of skin temperature patterns was performed using clothing in order to determine the presence of any relevant effect on thermal comfort (Chapter 7). Our results demonstrated that the skin temperature pattern over the whole-body is relatively universal with several features being consistently found regardless of the conditions or the populations. The upper body is usually warmer than the lower body and the body creases (orbital, elbow regions etc.) are also warmer than surrounding regions. A Y-shape of colder temperatures has been highlighted over the anterior torso as well as a T- or Y-shape of warmer temperature over the posterior torso. There are yet some specificities that can be displayed due to active muscles during exercise such as the warmer skin overlying the trapezius and biceps muscles in rowing (Chapter 5), the influence of the backpack construction with up to 3°C warmer skin temperature in the lower back (Chapter 6) or the importance of additional clothing insulation minimizing the anterior Y-shape of colder skin temperatures (Chapter 7). Beyond the thermal patterns, absolute skin temperature differences have been observed between sexes with females displaying 2°C colder skin during semi-nude running (Chapter 3) and 1°C colder skin during clothed walking (Chapter 6)compared to males. The skin temperature difference can also be as large as 6°C colder skin for an obese male compared to a very lean male (40% vs 7% body fat). Despite these differences, there were almost no significant differences in overall and regional thermal sensations and comfort between sexes or between males with varying body fat. Our results focused on body fat revealed that overall fat content and sum of skinfolds was inversely associated with the mean skin temperature response during various protocols (Chapter 4, 6, 7). Local skinfold thickness explained the inter-individual variability of local skin temperature for resting (Chapter 4) and exercising males (Chapter 7) in most body regions. In terms of intra-individual variations, the distribution of skinfold thickness across the anterior torso explained the distribution of skin temperature in this segment solely in conditions with strong regional contrasts (Chapter 3, 4 and 7). When the whole-body skin temperature pattern is considered, our body-mapping approach failed to show relationships between skin temperature distribution across the body and regional skinfold thickness distribution neither at rest nor during exercise. The relative contribution of other internal determinants such as local heat production,local blood flow distribution and local anthropometry should be further investigated to fully elucidate the spatial skin temperature variations depending on the climate, clothing and the body thermal state. Lastly, there was a trend towards improved thermal comfort during rest and exercise in the cold through a manipulation of skin temperature patterns targeting the naturally cold body regions with high insulation, therefore obtaining a more homogeneous skin temperature distribution across the body (Chapter 7). The present work will benefit the sport goods industry. The descriptive results of skin temperature variations will be useful in order to validate multi-segmental model of human thermoregulation. Further work can include pattern predictions for exercise types and conditions not covered by the present thesis. The skin temperature maps will mainly feed the general body-mapping approach for clothing design taking into account several other body mapping data such as sweat mapping and the combination of cold, warm and wetness sensitivity mappings. Lastly, the present results have highlighted the interest for targeted solutions and also the need for more evolutive systems in the field of cold weather apparel.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Oxylane Research, Environmental Ergonomics Research Centre (Loughborough Design School)
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Thermoregulation ; Skin temperature ; Infrared thermography ; Bodymapping ; Regional ; Thermal comfort ; Exercise ; Sex ; Body fat