The Effects of Cold Adaptation on Skin Blood Flow, Hand Function, and Comfort in Healthy Adults

  • End date
    Sep 30, 2023
  • participants needed
  • sponsor
    United States Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine
Updated on 4 October 2022
Accepts healthy volunteers


In cold weather environments, blood flow to the extremities is significantly reduced, which severely impairs hand function and induces thermal discomfort. Prolonged or repeated cold exposure elicits an adaptive habituation response that is characterized by blunted skin vasoconstriction and thus may be an effective strategy to improve peripheral perfusion, reduce thermal discomfort, and maintain hand function during cold weather military operations. Since mission conditions often involve low ambient temperatures, countermeasures that reduce cold-induced decrements in hand function and thermal comfort are important to enhance Warfighter readiness in cold weather battlefield environments. The goals of this study are to 1) evaluate the effectiveness of cold habituation in improving skin blood flow, hand function, and thermal comfort during cold exposure and 2) identify the mechanisms that contribute to improvements in skin blood flow following habituation.


Participants (n=15, 18-39 yrs) will complete a preliminary cold air exposure (baseline testing) followed by 8 days of repeated cold air exposures with minimal clothing. The cold exposures will be 2 hours in duration and will be conducted in 8°C (46°F) conditions. Before and after the repeated cold exposures, participants will undergo hand function tests, assessments of thermal comfort, and skin blood flow testing.

Condition Cold Exposure
Treatment Repeated cold exposure
Clinical Study IdentifierNCT05464758
SponsorUnited States Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine
Last Modified on4 October 2022


Yes No Not Sure

Inclusion Criteria

Male or female, age 18-39
In good health as determined by OMSO (Office of Medical Support and Oversight)
Willing to refrain from exercise and caffeinated or alcoholic beverages for 12 hours before each testing session
Willing to refrain from smoking or tobacco use 8 hours before each testing session

Exclusion Criteria

History of cold injuries of any severity (e.g., frostbite, trench foot, chilblains)
Raynaud's syndrome
Cold-induced asthma/bronchospasm
Previous hand/finger injuries that impair dexterity and hand function
Metal hardware (plates/screws) in the forearms and hands
Current use of medications or dietary supplements that could alter cardiovascular, thermoregulatory, or vascular control (e.g., anti-hypertensives, statins)
Known allergies to medical adhesives
Heart, lung, kidney, muscle, or nerve disorder(s)
A planned MRI during the study or within 2 days after completing a cold test
Women who are pregnant, planning to become pregnant, or breastfeeding
Not willing to have small areas of skin on the body shaved (if deemed necessary for attachment of study instrumentation)
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