Science Questions

Do brains work better at cold temperatures?

Tue, 29th Sep 2015

Listen Now    Download as mp3 from the show Why don't spiders get stuck on their webs?

Question

Robert asked:

 

I was showering my head in cold water and i felt that our head are extremely hot, almost like a CPU of a computer, and i was wondering: Do our brains work better when its cooler? Like a computer processor?

 

Answer

Ginny Smith warmed up to Robert's question

Ginny - Well, the first thing to say is that one of our brainís important jobs is to keep our body temperature regulated. It can't go up too much or down too much, or all of our organs will stop working, including our brains. So, the actualThermometer temperature of our brains doesnít change all that much as the ambient temperature changes. But if we change the question to being, do our brains work well when itís hot outside when the weather is hot, then you get quite an interesting answer. Our bodies actually find it more difficult to cool us down when weíre hot than they do to warm us up when itís cold. Both those processes use energy. They use up glucose and glucose is what powers our bodies, but itís also what powers our brains. So, one theory is that when itís hot, we actually donít make very good decisions. There's been some really interesting studies on this looking at the kinds of lottery tickets that people buy during hot weather and showing that people generally go for the easier option when itís hot outside.

Kat - This probably explains a lot about holiday romance as well.

Ginny - Probably, that could definitely explain that. The thought is that thatís because your body is using up lots of its energy trying to keep cool and there's just not enough glucose left to power your brain and to power the decision making. But our bodies are really good at adapting. So actually, you're just right talking about holidays because the effect is going to be more from someone from the UK who goes over to Florida than for someone whoís always lived in Florida. They're not going to notice that hot temperature as much. So, it really is. When you go on holiday, you're acclimatising to that new temperature. Your body is working so hard, there's no power left for good decision making.

Kat - Presumably, if you go somewhere really, really cold and you get really cold, thatís also not going to be great either.

Ginny - Again, you're going to be using energy to warm yourself up, shivering and that sort of thing. the studies suggest that thatís not as difficult as cooling yourself down. But yes, if you went somewhere really, really cold, I would assume the same would happen.

Multimedia

Subscribe Free

Related Content

Comments

Make a comment

See the whole discussion | Make a comment

Not working please enable javascript
EPSRC
Powered by UKfast
STFC
Genetics Society
ipDTL