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0 Q&A 391 Views Sep 5, 2023

An emerging body of behavioural studies indicates that regular swimming in cold water has positive effects on mental health and wellbeing, such as reducing fatigue, improving mood, and lessening depressive symptoms. Moreover, some studies reported immediate effects of cold-water immersion (CWI) on elevating mood and increasing a positive emotional state. However, the neural mechanisms underlying these effects remain largely unknown. The lack of studies using neuroimaging techniques to investigate how a whole-body CWI affects neural processes has partly resulted from the lack of a tested experimental protocol. Previous protocols administered tonic limb cooling (1–10 °C) while recording functional magnetic resonance (fMRI) signals. However, using very low water temperature constitutes points of contrast to painful experiences that are different from what we experience after a whole-body head-out CWI. In our protocol, healthy adults unhabituated to cold water were scanned twice: immediately before (pre-CWI) and after (post-CWI) immersion in cold water (water temperature 20 °C) for 5 min. We recorded cardiac and ventilatory responses to CWI and assessed self-reported changes in positive and negative affects. Our protocol showed reliable changes in brain connectivity after a short exposure to cold water, thus enabling its use as a tested experimental framework in future studies.

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