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Keywords:

  • Aging;
  • Thermal sensitivity;
  • Thermal adaptation;
  • Evoked potentials

Abstract

Aging is associated with changes in thermosensitivity and decreases in the functionality of the autonomic thermoregulation. The underlying mechanisms are, however, not fully understood. Elderly subjects may undergo functional changes in the integration process of the thermal sensory system, especially in their thermal adaptation capacities. To verify this hypothesis, we compared thermal evoked responses in younger and older subjects exposed to thermoneutral (27°C) and warm (30°C) environments. In the warm environment, the amplitudes of thermal evoked potentials (EPs) were significantly lower in older than in younger subjects, whereas in the thermoneutral environment, the EP amplitudes were similar in both groups. These findings suggest that thermal adaptation capacities are reduced in elderly individuals, due to a dysfunction of C-fibers with aging, particularly expressed by lowered adaptation capacities to temperature variations.